Gamification is about Design, Not Technology

Gamification should be thought of as a design sensibility. It is a thought process and a methodology to think about engaging and motivating learners.

Gamification is not bounded by technology or the need to be delivered online; it doesn’t have to be digital. Instead, gamification is a design sensibility.

Think about it. Stories are not technology bound, feedback is not technology bound and neither is challenge, autonomy or even social interactions. Technology can enable, enhance and energize those activities (as well as stifle, detract and stagnate). So we should not think of technology as a necessary pre-requisite for gamification only an enabler.

From an instructional design perspective, the idea of engagement, learner feedback loops, certain interaction mechanics and even tasks commonly associate with a game like matching, sorting, selecting categorizing are all activities that do not require a digital interface. We live in a digital world but design is still key and of extreme importance and gamification needs to be thought of first a “design” and then apply the technology. The same has been true for every type of learning design from the beginning. Contrary to Marshall McLuhan’s assertion, I really think the medium is only the delivery vehicle, it is not the message (and lots of media research backs that assertion.)

Gamification is a way of designing an engaging and motivating experience, it is a method of taking the parts from games and applying those game sensibilities outside of traditional game environments. While a result of gamification is often fun, the ultimate outcome behind developing a gamified approach is increased engagement and motivation.

Posted in: Design, Gamification

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  1. Robert Becker June 9, 2014

    Good point, Karl. Gamification has been going on since before the Internet existed. Only the name is new, not the concepts or techniques.

    That being the case, we might wonder why gamification appeals to contemporary designers and users.

    Is gamification a reaction to a lack of engagement with conventional e-learning? My guess is no, it isn’t. I’m not aware of evidence that this lack of engagement exists, or if it does exist, that many organizations need to do something about it.

    Well, if not engagement, what is the driver of gamification? Here’s a guess. Gamification is good for generating behavioral outcomes. Though it isn’t action or experiential learning per se, it does force students to do things, to act. The kinesthetic affordances of gamification are the main attraction, I think.

    Again, nothing new about this. The same applies to game mechanics in the analog world.

    So, when we want to get somebody to do something, gamification may work well. When we want to make somebody think about about problems and work out the solutions, then gamification is probably not the right choice.

Karl Kapp
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