Gameful design is something that is perhaps better learned from experience than from PPT slides or blog posts. When we start an explanation with motivation (as I did here) or habits (as I did here), it is hard to understand what gameful design should “look like” when it is deployed. One thing in particular, the use of narrative, needs to be seen to be understood. In another earlier post (here), I described what was for me a kind of epiphenal moment in my quest to understand how gameful learning can help with motivation and learning. It came when I was reading Jane McGonigal’s book. After I read that, I felt like I finally had a workable example of the power of narrative in creating a game from something else entirely. I called the post Mechanics because for me the process of laying a narrative onto a something that would become a game equaled the process of “gamification.” Points and badges are often thought of as the mechanics of gamification, but if we think about making something more gamelike–that is playful, meaningful, delightful–then points and badges are really part of the details that need to be worked out later. It is the narrative structure, in combination with a workable feedback system (here’s where your points and badges come in) that makes the experience meaningfully gamelike.
In order to see this idea of applying a narrative onto something different, I offer for your consideration today a few examples. You can try them out with your friends or family or by yourself to see how they feel. Of course, it is not the same as laying a narrative on top of an EFL class, but you’ll get an idea of what it is like to work toward your goals within the details of a story. All of these sites require registration and regular participation, so make sure you have the time and the stomach for a month of “play.” And notice first of all how each of these sites works on the same basic idea–nudging you to complete YOUR goals.
HabitRPG is a site to help you to establish positive habits for life, for work, and for study. It’s really a flexible task and time management tool that has a gamelike design. You use the system by deciding your daily routines and one-time to-dos. You also set your rewards and monitor your habits. It sounds a little confusing, but it is actually a fairly easy interface. The system is incredibly flexible and could be used as easily with training learning strategies as with developing good diet routines. Here is a blog article by Nik Peachey detailing how to use it. It includes his assessment of the tool.
Similar to HabitRPG but with more of a focus on healthy eating and living is Health Month. It uses a simple, friendly user interface at which you play turns (set goals and assess yourself). They also nudge you regularly with e-mail messages. It’s a nice system that works on a monthly basis; but it’s not really focused on study goals, and not really flexible beyond its health and lifestyle focus. Within those areas, however, it is quite a nice experience. I tried it to help me diet and reduce my internet time.
For more of a fitness emphasis, try Fitocracy. Its purpose is fitness motivation and it uses a combination of awareness-raising, goal-setting, habit-forming, and social media to get you to understand fitness better, plan your own fitness routines, and network or challenge other Fitocraccy players. It works for all levels of fitness they say, but unless you are fairly familiar with some exercises and terminology, you may find it a little difficult to understand what you should do. Plus the system is quite large with many functions. I found it a little hard just to get orientated. But if you are serious about fitness, you will probably find this site meets your needs.
Nextup is Chore Wars. Chore Wars is designed for families or couples or any people living together who find it hard to get the everyday chores of cooking and cleaning done regularly. The solution? Gamification. Each person chooses his/her chores and competes with others in completing more of them more efficiently. The narrative, as the name suggests is a World of Warcraft / Dungeons and Dragons world of adventures (chores) and quests (chores again). As you complete chores, your elf or wizard or dwarf earns XPs (experience points). If you are really using the system well, you can introduce your own creatively-named rewards into the play.
But let’s not forget the world of education. World of Classcraft is a site offering the service of listing and tracking your class within a World of Warcraft / Dungeons and Dragons theme. According to their website, they are “an educational augmented-reality multiplayer role-playing game.” You really have to be familiar with the play and progression in World of Warcraft to understand what you have to do here. For that reason alone, it may be a little daunting. Recently, they tried (unsuccessfully) gain funding for a free web-based version of the game. If you just want to check it out, there is a nice video at the site showing how a teacher (actually the game developer) uses it in his physics classes.
And finally, in one of the more unusual (and looser) applications of gamification for learning, there is the Teacher Development game. It is a loose collection of online videos and tutorials showing how to teach EFL better. You can find it here.
And that’s it. If you really want to understand gamified learning, trying out any one of these sites can help you learn a little. As you play, however, keep thinking about what works and doesn’t work for you. Is the system accessible? What is the narrative? Does it make any difference? And finally, most importantly: Does the system make it easy reach your goals? How exactly does it do this?
This post is just one of a series of posts on gamification. The others are here:
- Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards
- Triggers, Ability, and Motivation
- The Downside and How to Avoid It
- The Whole Hog?
- Required Reading
Image fragment from Les Portes by Paul Evans http://unsplash.s3.amazonaws.com/batch%208/les-portes.jpg