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Gamification notes (part 1)

Posted on: July 28, 2017

Tan Wee Hoe sharing this thoughts on and examples of gamification.

Two days ago, I had the privilege of attending a talk on gamification at SUTD by A/P Tan Wee Hoe. Wee Hoe (WH) was there as a visiting scholar and I was there for a meeting. My host mentioned the talk at the end of our meeting and I was game.

Here are some notes I took about gamification and I share some thoughts in italics.

WH did not distinguish gamification from game-based learning or serious gaming. He stirred all three in one pot. In his opinion, gamification:

  • was for making a task fun
  • had to be planned and organised around rules
  • be based on a contrived situation, competition, or experience

I liked WH’s illustration of fun. He described how one could shoot ducks for food (a survival tactic) or for a challenge (a sport). The former was a necessity while the latter was for fun.

Was the message then that gamification helps learners do the same thing but for different purposes or in different contexts?

WH offered three main gamification designs:

  1. Strategic immersion (provokes deeper thinking and requires more time)
  2. Tactical immersion (depends on fast reactions)
  3. Narrative immersion (based on storytelling)

These are game designs and gamified activities might borrow from them. If gamification is the act of borrowing elements from games but not actually playing those games, then gamification designers need to know where the elements come from.

The overall purpose of gamification is to turn a formal non-gaming activity to a gaming activity. The process should be iterative to encourage involvement and participation.

One might return to examples like incentivising physical therapy or returning your food tray or showing up to work on time. This is why gamification is sometimes described as offering chocolate-covered broccoli.

WH made the distinction between playing and gaming. He gave the example of playing with a bottle by tossing it vs creating a challenge around bottle-tossing complete with rules, scores, timing, etc.

This most basic distinction was one of my bigger takeaways. It addresses the criticism that gamification and game-based learning are peripheral to task or pandering to learners. They are not just about playing (oh, the fun and games!); they are structures for learning as participants game.

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