Gamification

The power of games on education

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It is time we take games seriously! They are not just an entertainment for children, a pastime to teenagers or
an escape from reality. Gamification has increasingly been used to incorporate elements of games into the work environment, becoming a very common practice in the business world.

And since games have a great capability of engaging people, the strategy has been considered of great value
to education. It strengthens entrepreneurial culture by stimulating empowering experiences which provides
autonomy in learning, creativity and innovation.

1st level

Games are part of human history. They are directly connected to psychological aspects as
motivation, engagement, leadership, resilience and willingness to face challenges. It is
believed that the first game ever developed by mankind – at least from those we know of
– involved dices made of bones and dates to 2.500 years ago. According to Herodotus,
these dices were invented when famine struck the Kingdom of Lydia. To deal with the
extreme situation, king Atys established that his people should spend every other day
fasting and playing dice, alternating between one another. Story is told that that is how he
managed to distract the population from overwhelming anxiety and suffering caused by
lack of food during 18 years.

The situation did not get better after all this time, so the king decided that they should
play one last battle, and that the winner would have the right to depart to find a different
way of sustenance, leaving behind only a sufficient number of people that should survive
from the resources that were available. That strategy gave origin to the Etruscan people
who, according to history, were the winners of that battle.

Since that time games have evolved and diversified quite a lot. From board games to the beloved Atari, from RPG to the famous World of Warcraft or Minecraft, they enchant and entertain people from all ages around the globe.

According to Bernard Suits, author of the book “The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia”, games are based on three concepts:

  1. Prelusory Goal: is the goal that gives meaning to the game. In a soccer match, for instance, the goal is scoring more than the opponent.

  2. Constitutive Rules: the proscription of certain means useful in achieving the prelusory goal”. A set of rules and limits that make the activity a game. In a table tennis match, for exemple, the ball should never land twice on the same side of the table; the ball must pass over the net assembly to the other side, etc.

  3. Lusory Attitude: the player follows the rules voluntarily because he acknowledges a meaning in the game and agrees with the final goal.

The industry of games in Brazil

Those who believe games are only made for men and teenagers couldn’t be more mistaken.
A survey taken in 2017 with brazilian gamers shows that 53,6% of them are women
and 67,6% are between 25-54 years old.

Brazilian gamers are multiplatform:    
74% of the gamers   
play in more than     
one device.               

   Smartphone is the platform of choice
   by most users (77,9%).

   Computers follow in second place (66,4%)    and consoles in third (49%).

60,7% of the people  
play while on the move
  
(traffic, waiting queues).  

    53,6% of gamers are women;
   46,4% are men. 36,2% are
   between 25-34 years old; 31,4% are
  between 35-54 and 28,4%
  between 16-24.

58,9% play frequently online.
42% of the interviewed live with their children

85% of the children whose parents were
interviewed also plays some kind of game.

The majority of women (48,9%)
prefers strategy games,
while men preference
is for action games (53,5%). 29,3% download
mobile games in a weekly basis and 24,2% fortnightly.

Font: Pesquisa Game Brasil 2017

2nd level

The simple introduction of playful, ludic elements is not enough to consider an
activity gamified. According to Kevin Werbach, professor at the University of
Pennsylvania, Gamification consists in the strategic use of game elements and
design outside their contexts.

Examples happen in our daily lives even when we’re not even noticing. Think about
the apps for runners: they tell the athlete how many miles they have runned, the
speed they have reached, compare ongoing performance to previous ones and, more
than that, award users for new records. Those are a great example of Gamification
put into practice!

What are games made of?

After all, what exactly are game elements? They work as a toolbox,
with several components, features and pieces that are part of the
game world. Let’s take a look at the most common ones:

1>Scores

The user gathers scores as he or
she succeeds on the game.

2>Collection of Resources:

Just like the scores gained by progressing
in the game, resources (lives, shields, badges,
awards, special effects) are gathered while playing.
The user can take advantage of them whenever is necessary.

3>Levels

Those are the phases of the game
through which the user progresses
and is able to measure his development
towards the final challenge.

4>Progression

Just like levels, this helps the gamer to
situate himself on the game, analysing
his overall performance.

5>Avatars

Avatars represent the players in the game environment, interacting with objects and also with each other. Depending of the game complexity, it’s possible to choose a name, physical appearance, abilities and even personality traces for the avatars.

6>Social Graph

It shows who the competitors
are, and in the case of online
games who are the opponents, the
partners and their respectively status.

7>Misison

Smaller challenges in which the player has specific tasks such as
fighting a certain enemy, finding a treasure or something valuable or even rescuing a partner.

All these elements can be combined in different forms and applied to products
or services as a strategy to enhance users engagement and participation.

3rd level

According to a survey from Carnegie Mellon University, young people from countries that have a strong game culture spend an average of 10.000 hours playing games by the time they reach 21 years old. That is as much time as american students spend on their formal education, from fifth grade to high school graduation. Curiously, 10.000 hours is also the time author Malcolm Gladwell, in his Theory of Success, considers to be necessary for someone to become an expert in anything. Can you imagine all that time, focus and engagement applied to the purpose of learning?

Jane McGonigal, researcher, games designer and author of the book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” made the audience laugh when she said, at a TED conference, that the answer to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, obesity, global conflicts could be in games. According to her, if the total of hours spent with games increased from 3 billion hours a week (total in 2010) to 21 billion hours a week during a decade, a lot of these global challenges could be solved.

However, her belief actually finds support as several of its arguments were proven by researches. It’s a fact that games stimulate important skills like deep focus and concentration, confidence on reaching higher goals, team spirit, empathy, acceptance of failure, strategic vision, etc. All of this in a fun and voluntary way, considering that the participant decides to play, agreeing and following the given rules, and believing the game purpose.

“when we're playing, I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves -- the most likely to help, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again.” - Jane McGonigal - researcher, game designer and author of the book Reality is Broken.

“The kind of engagement that happens on games is rare in our schools, our jobs and real lives. There is quality on that engagement. We are more curious, more optimistic, more determined, learn faster from our mistakes and have a more resilient attitude to our failures”

Jane McGonigal

Jane claims that students learn better by taking tests than by studying for tests. That happens because, through tests, students are able to get concrete feedback on what they know and what they don’t know. So failing and getting feedback helps build up knowledge quickly. The same happens when playing games: the player in general is not afraid of making mistakes, because there isn’t a punishment for doing so. If the gamer uses all of his “lives” or “scores”, is still possible to simply restart the game. In games is more important to continue to trying, and according to Jane that is also what allows a solid learning.

“The kind of engagement that happens on games is rare in our schools, our jobs and real lives. There is quality on that engagement. We are more curious, more optimistic, more determined, learn faster from our mistakes and have a more resilient attitude to our failures”

Jane McGonigal

Jane claims that students learn better by taking tests than by studying for tests. That happens because, through tests, students are able to get concrete feedback on what they know and what they don’t know. So failing and getting feedback helps build up knowledge quickly. The same happens when playing games: the player in general is not afraid of making mistakes, because there isn’t a punishment for doing so. If the gamer uses all of his “lives” or “scores”, is still possible to simply restart the game. In games is more important to continue to trying, and according to Jane that is also what allows a solid learning.

“The kind of engagement that happens on games is rare in our schools, our jobs and real lives. There is quality on that engagement. We are more curious, more optimistic, more determined, learn faster from our mistakes and have a more resilient attitude to our failures”

Jane McGonigal

Jane claims that students learn better by taking tests than by studying for tests. That happens because, through tests, students are able to get concrete feedback on what they know and what they don’t know. So failing and getting feedback helps build up knowledge quickly. The same happens when playing games: the player in general is not afraid of making mistakes, because there isn’t a punishment for doing so. If the gamer uses all of his “lives” or “scores”, is still possible to simply restart the game. In games is more important to continue to trying, and according to Jane that is also what allows a solid learning.

“The kind of engagement that happens on games is rare in our schools, our jobs and real lives. There is quality on that engagement. We are more curious, more optimistic, more determined, learn faster from our mistakes and have a more resilient attitude to our failures”

Jane McGonigal

Jane claims that students learn better by taking tests than by studying for tests. That happens because, through tests, students are able to get concrete feedback on what they know and what they don’t know. So failing and getting feedback helps build up knowledge quickly. The same happens when playing games: the player in general is not afraid of making mistakes, because there isn’t a punishment for doing so. If the gamer uses all of his “lives” or “scores”, is still possible to simply restart the game. In games is more important to continue to trying, and according to Jane that is also what allows a solid learning.

Gamers superpowers

Urgent Optimism

Extreme self-motivation, a desire to
immediately tackle an obstacle, combined with the
belief there is a reasonable hope of success.

Sociable

Important researches indicate that we like people better
after we play a game with them. And the reason is, it takes
a lot of trust to play a game with or even against someone.
Games create bonds and cooperation that build stronger relationships.

Productive

Gamers are willing to work hard
all the time, if they're given the right task.

Guided by an epic meaning

Gamers like to be attached to awe-inspiring challenges and
missions that have a purpose for humanity – even if that it’s
true only in a virtual world.

Super-empowered and
hopeful individuals

Gamers believe they are capable of changing the world.

Benefits
for education

click on the pieces and know

Font: Institute of Play

Learning by doing

Everything is
interconnected

Failure is reframed
as iteration

Challenge
is constant

Learning feels
like playing

Everyone is
a participant

4th level

Created in 2009, Quest to Learn, or Q2L, is a New York City public school known to be the first educational institution with a game-based – electronic or not – curriculum. Students from sixth to ninth grade learn while playing but also develop strategies and create their own games. Subjects are grouped into broader themes and every semester starts with the students receiving a mission, which is divided into small challenges or “Quests”. One of the missions, for instance, was a combination of Social Studies and English, in which students had to solve a conflict between the ghosts of the Natural History Museum of New York, all of them figures of the actual American Revolutionary War.

Another interesting aspect of Quest to Learn is that all teachers can create gamified experiences of learning, being granted with flexible working hours that allows them to form a team with game designers and other experts to plan classes together. Educators are also trained to work as mentors and facilitators of the learning process, to develop systemic thinking, to master technologies as teaching tools and to ensure the well-being and emotional intelligence of students.

Besides the teachers, older students are encouraged to produce content and challenges to younger ones, what reinforces the collaborative aspect of the school. In just five years of operation, Q2L reached 94% of average student attendance rate, 90% teacher retention, grades 56% better than the New York citywide average on the state standardized English Language Arts exams and consecutive wins on the city mathematics competitions.

Khan Academy is an online learning platform that respects each student’s learning rhythm - in and outside the classroom. Math, science, programming, history, history of art, economy and other contents are offered through essays and videos. Its main goal is to provide free education for anyone, anywhere in the world, in 36 different languages.

Strategies of gamification – such as organizing elements visually, showing the gained skills and lessons to be completed in the format of constellations – are applied in order to potentialize learning. Visualizing progress through graphics allows students to be proud of what they have achieved in their studies and motivates them to face new challenges. Moreover, all progress on the platform has an award and “promotions” that encourage students along the journey.

A game that teaches games fundamentals. Similar to RPG (role-playing game), Octalysis’ final goal is to develop players both personally and professionally through gamification learning. In a virtual island, gamers take lessons on Persuasive Technology, Motivational Psychology, Game Design, Technology Platforms, Entrepreneurship Business, Behavioral Economics and Applied Psychology, each one of them in a different environment. New lessons are unlocked after previous phases are completed, just like in a game.

Furthermore, the membership includes access to a community of people interested about the study and application of Octalysis, exchanging ideas and helping each other along the way.

Final Challenge

Remember: there is no need to invest on a complex education platform in order to offer gamified
experiences to students. All that it takes is understanding gamification strategy and considering
its application when planning a class. Take a look at some essential aspects about creating this kind
of experience in the classroom:

EXPERIMENTATION

In most games, there is more than one path that leads to the ultimate goal. Offering different possibilities to solve a problem makes classes more diversified, as they take into account different personalities and potentials.

DIFFICULTY
LEVELS

Games have progressive challenges with difficulty levels that vary according to players skills. The same should happen in education, so that each person progresses according to their own learning pace.

QUICK
FEEDBACK CYCLES

Gamers are immediately affected by their actions, receiving bonuses or being penalized by their hits and failures during games. Quickly visualizating results allows a more dynamic learning, making players (or in that case, students) redirect their strategies all the time.

Compartmentalization

Dividing great missions into small challenges is a special feature about games. The strategy can contribute to building knowledge gradually, enhancing self-esteem through the achievements during the learning course.

Room for
failure

Players start a match or a challenge knowing they will fail many times until they can successfully finish the game. And this is not frustrating, but more likely the opposite: it’s part of games’ dynamics and it helps players enhancing their skills.

NARRATIVE

Games have a context that allows the player to understand and engage with a mission. Most of the difficulties faced in the classroom have to do with understanding the relevance and applicability of concepts to the real world.

COMPETITION AND
COLLABORATION

Although one may sound like the opposite of the other, competition (in a healthy way) and collaboration are, in fact, complementary. They are responsible for developing and intensifying social relationships.

FUN

Last but not least, fun. Fun is what makes gamified activities turn into such rich and attractive experiences. Do not hesitate to propose light and relaxed dynamics.

Font: Marcelo Luis Fardo (UFRGS)

In order to incorporate game elements in your educational strategy, regarding student profiles and results, know how different characteristics (the good and the bad ones) are developed or intensified in gamified activities:

Engagement technique

achieving scores or
gathering badges

Reinforced characteristics:
Autonomy, self-confidence, feedback,
goals, escapism, compulsion.

Player profile:
Doers, socializers, explorers.

Engagement technique

challenges and missions

Reinforced characteristics:
Intrinsic motivation, self-confidence, challenge,
feedback, goals, escapism, compulsion.

Player profile:
Doers, explorers.

Engagement technique

rankings and
leadership

Reinforced characteristics:
autonomy, self-confidence, challenge,
goals, social interaction, compulsion

Player profile:
Predators, socializers.

Engagement technique

progress bar

Reinforced characteristics: Intrinsic motivation,
self-confidence, challenge, feedback, goals, compulsion.

Player profile:
Everyone.

Engagement technique

reward

Reinforced characteristics:
Social interaction.

Player profile:
Socializers.

Font: Escola Brasileira de Games

To help you continuing learning about the game universe and bringing fun experiences
into the classroom, we have made a list of videos and books to inspire you:

TED Jane McGonigal

Gaming can make
a better world

TED You Kai Chou

Gamification to
improve our world

Gamify - How Gamification
Motivates People to Do
Extraordinary Things
Brian Burke

Games em educação -
Como os nativos digitais aprendem
João Mattar

Rality is Broken
Jane McGonigal

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