Gamification: What does it mean and what is its purpose in Learning

Jun 27, 2023 | Gamification & game-based | 0 comments

If you search online for “what is gamification,” you’ll find this definition:

“Gamification is a technique that involves using playful mechanics in non-playful contexts.”

Simple, clear, direct. Correct? No. Or at least not entirely. If you search online for “the history of gamification” or “how did gamification originate,” you’ll almost certainly find this: the famous Ted talk by Jesse Schell in which, for the first time, half-seriously, half-jokingly, he hypothesized applying the game design mindset to everyday life. So, “Did gamification originate in 2010?” True? No, or at least not entirely.

But is better to clarify what we actually call “Gamification” for a product or a process

Jesse Schell the father of the term gamification

What is gamification and what is its purpose? The definition is concise but flawed. Who said that gamification cannot be used in non-playful contexts? An example: the mechanics of unpacking players’ cards in video games like PES or FIFA. Mechanics that introduce random elements into a video game (where your character spawns, what equipment you find in the world, in some cases even the appearance of your character). I could go on, but the essence is that gamification can also be used in “properly” playful contexts. Another focus on the above definition: “… Using playful mechanics in non-playful contexts.” The idea from this phrase is an OVERLAY. The designer should use mechanics for purposes other than pure entertainment. It closely resembles Mary Poppins’ famous motto: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” In reality, gamification is not something that overlays onto something pre-existing; it is a mindset that REIMAGINES and REDESIGNS content and interactions to make them enjoyable, pleasant, fun, interesting, or simply visible and understandable.

As for the origins of gamification – which are definitely older than you thought –

Jane McGonigal one of gamification most important authorsWe can say that the term defining it emerged just over a decade ago. It would be a gross mistake to claim that gamification as a technique and knowledge only recently emerged. Jane McGonigal in her first text, “Reality is Broken,” reminds us of an ancient episode that used games as a real antidote. A people on a march to evade a siege by an enemy people did not have enough food to feed everyone for the entire march. The King ordered that one day people could march and eat, the next day they had to march and play. The game was used as an emotional outlet to overcome a dramatic situation. This is just one example; the people managed to evade the siege and survived. The saying of Juvenal, “Panem et circenses,” testifies that even in ancient times, what the people want is food and games. It would be overly reductionist to think that engagement and gamification are “recent” techniques. Much less necessarily linked to digital contexts such as apps and/or websites. Gamification can be applied to events, places, and specific contexts as well as apps and websites. How did gamification originate? What is gamification used for? Gamification and online training courses. What is gamification used for in learning? Why does learning seem so irretrievably attracted to gamification and engagement techniques?

Because we as humans are first and foremost beings that learn, we do it from birth and continue for the rest of our lives, in fact, it is what distinguishes humans from many animal species that follow the information inscribed in their brains from birth, the so-called “instinct.” Learning is essential for us, it changes us, makes us flexible, and allows us to adapt to the most difficult and peculiar contexts. Classical learning, the student reading the book or listening to the teacher sitting in school, is a tiny subset of all learning, despite often being confused with the entire “learning.” So, what is the purpose of gamification in education? Gamification serves to REIMAGINE AND REDESIGN learning to make the experience understandable, interesting, visible, tangible, and finally, enjoyable and fun.