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#Pokémon Go Club 141

Posted on: November 16, 2016

My reflection today is about the value of game-based learning over gamification. I use a personal accomplishment in Pokémon Go to illustrate both.

A few days ago, I joined Pokémon Go’s “Club 141” by registering 141 Pokémon in my Pokédex.

PoGo Club 141.

This is not an official club. It is an informal achievement that players here use to denote how they have collected all readily accessible Generation 1 Pokémon.

There are 151 Pokémon in Generation 1. Four are regional exclusives and you have to be in Australia, Europe, the USA, or in “Asia” (specifically Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan) to collect these. The other six have not been released by gaming company Niantic. So if you want to “catch ’em all” in Singapore, you are limited to 141 Pokémon.

I am not the first to join Club 141. Many in the Singapore PoGo Facebook group share this accomplishment when they hit this mark.

I managed to do this three months after the game’s release here by consistent and strategic work. I figured out what the most efficient and effective strategies were for me.

  • I focused on completing my collection and keeping the best instead of  battling or hoarding.
  • I optimised my resources for collecting by favouring Poké balls over potions.
  • I collected what I could where I could to transform lower forms to higher forms instead of hoping for the latter to appear in the wild.
  • I used crowdsourced information [example] of where possible spawning nests of a particular type was to catch many of one type I lacked.
  • When SGPokéMap was up, I used it to track and collect Pokémon I did not have.

The game also tells me that I am currently as Level 27 and I have walked 445km while playing.

PoGo level 27.

Most gamers who take PoGo seriously will agree that the game gets difficult after Level 20 because you need disproportionately more experience points (XP) to level up.

PoGo jogger.

The distance I covered is an underestimate as PoGo is not precise in measuring location or distance covered. It tends to favour motion in straight lines and life does not afford that. All that said, basic math tells me that I walked an average of 5km a day over 90 days.

Trying to join Club 141, levelling up, and getting a badge for how far I have walked are principles of gamification. While these are drawn from games, they rely largely on extrinsic factors to keep people playing (or studying in the case of schooling): Complete quests for rewards, get promoted, collect tokens.

These are not wrong, but they can only take a gamer or learner so far. The game company, learning designer, LMS manager, or teacher has to keep offering rewards if the motivation is purely intrinsic. Pokémon Go has already faced a drop off in gamers when interest waned or when gamers filled up their Pokédex.

What does game-based learning (GBL) offer over gamification?

Beyond external rewards, good GBL makes the motivation intrinsic. I will keep playing the game because I set my own goals and not because the game bribes or goads me.

For example, newly implemented daily rewards system is a bonus, but I have challenged myself to get better versions (higher individual values or IVs) of the Pokémon I already have. I also plan on hatching unhatched eggs I have collected and battling in gyms to collect free coins which I will exchange for egg incubators. This is like a learner who strives for mastery or seeks self-directed goals in game-based learning.

Mastery and self-directed learning are not unique to GBL, but they are more enjoyable within a gaming context. Enjoyable does not mean easy; it means difficult fun.

I can make links between gaming and pedagogy because I play games and I am an educator. This is why I encourage teachers and educators who wish to harness the power of off-the-shelf or mobile games NOT designed for the classroom to play games and then reflect deeply to make their own connections.

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