Gamification Badges

     For every Pokémon that participants saved, they were awarded a badge corresponding to an important aspect of gamification. After collecting all nine, there was one more waiting to be earned…


Narrative Badge

     Give your activities a story! A good narrative invests players emotionally in what they are doing. Use elements of mystery to draw people in, then immediately ask them to do something! Don’t make participants wade through long lists of instructions. Have them learn by doing! Well-designed games use their first level as a tutorial, so your initial activity should not only set up the story, but prepare players for what they’ll need moving forward. As much as possible, all subsequent tasks should also directly relate to your narrative. Story and class progress should be intertwined. It’s all about seamless thematic integration!

Control Badge

     A goal for many classrooms is a student-centered approach. The instructor does not lead, but rather facilitates student learning. Games do the same thing by granting players control of their own actions and destiny. Their progress is self-paced and they can choose how and when to tackle certain objectives. This freedom allows players to explore, discover, and learn on their own terms. It also comes with the potential for failure, an unpleasant, yet necessary component of the learning process. By letting students take charge, we foster autonomous, engaged learners who will continue to seek knowledge outside of the classroom and after our courses.


Challenge Badge

     Who doesn’t love a challenge? When properly scaffolded with instruction and balanced according to player skill, challenges in games can be motivation in and of themselves. In fact, they are the core of every game’s basic formula: Train the player in the basics and present challenges of increasing difficulty until the “Final Boss” which requires skill mastery.

     Good games also variety the tasks with which they challenge players. They avoid repetition and burnout by changing up what players are asked to do. Earn a high score! Collect all the items! Defeat five enemies! Each task may use similar base skills, but appeals to different player styles.

 Risk Badge

     Where there’s no risk, there’s no reward, and games make great use of this. When faced with a challenge, the outcome is not certain and there is a risk of loss. If you fail, your character may die and lose a life, you may have to restart a level, or you may lose points from your score. This motivates players to make every attempt count and improve their performance in order to complete a challenge with minimal loss. Yet even in the case of complete loss, games implement several strategies to limit player demotivation (See the Mastery Badge).



Feedback Badge

     Feedback is just as important in games as it is in class. Players need to know if what they’re doing is correct or if they need to alter their tactics in order to improve or succeed. Unlike school where graded feedback can take a while to receive, feedback in a game environment should be immediate! Imagine playing that matching game again, but your correct matches never disappeared. You’d never know if you were right or be able to learn from trial and error. Simple forms of immediate feedback are necessary to engage and encourage players.

Progress Badge

     Players, just like students, need to be able to see their progress. How much have they completed and how much remains to accomplish their goal? Incorporating game mechanics such as gaining experience points to level up, earning badges, and collecting puzzle pieces all serve to show players not only how far they have to go, but also how far they’ve come. It’s not always about what students lack, but what they’ve gained and how much they’ve grown. Using these visible indicators can be very motivating.

     Creating leaderboards can bring a competitive flavor to making progress. In addition to knowing how they’re faring relative to the overall goal, players know how they stack up against their peers and may be encouraged to practice and improve in order to rank higher.


Mastery Badge

     A game, though entertaining, is a well-disguised teaching mechanism. In order to make progress, a player must first master the requisite skills for each given task. Yet when a player falls short, it rarely results in a high-stakes, game over outcome. Games hinge on “retry states,” granting players multiple attempts in order to improve. Though these attempts may be limited or have other negative aspects (See the Risk Badge), they ultimately provide a “freedom to fail” that anticipates most players will not succeed on the first attempt. By building in additional chances and hints, games motivate their players to continue and improve even if they fail. Once a player has mastered a challenge or level, they often receive a special reward such as a trophy or unlockable feature. These visible signs of mastery further serve as player motivation.

Social Badge

     Social connections are an important part of any game. Whether it’s chatting, bragging, collaborating, or defeating, every type of player is motivated in part by some form of social interaction. Games are therefore most engaging when they involve the player in a community. The role they choose to take is up to them, but the interpersonal component connects people through the screen, rather than to the screen. The classroom is our community and ensuring and directing positive student-to-student interactions is essential to its success.

     For more information about how Bartle’s Four Gamer Types can be applied in the classroom, check out this Edudemic article by Douglas Kiang.


Collaboration Badge

     More than simply socializing or competing, players need to work together to solve problems. In a game setting, this problem is often of epic scale: The world will be destroyed! The princess has been captured! It cannot be resolved by one individual, but requires the collaborative efforts of many players. They need to pool knowledge, resources, and expertise in order to overcome the challenges, thus the success of one player aids, rather than harms the success of others. Even in single-player games, people collaborate asynchronously with game guides and discussion forums. Connect the end goal of a game to the “epic meaning” of your course to necessitate group problem solving!

Creation Badge

     The final badge can only be earned by applying the concepts from the first nine badges! How might you gamify aspects of your courses or existing assignments and activities? What are some themes or activities you might include? How could you collaborate with another instructor or department? To see how I tackled these questions, check out the Behind the Scenes!

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