Simply put, gamification is the use of gaming elements in a non-game setting such as a classroom. The purpose of gamification is to motivate learners/participants and to change their behaviors. How do game elements motivate people? They engage them by triggering their sense of competition and motivate them by rewarding them for task mastery and productivity.

For instance, Everything2 is a great example of a gamified writing site that has adopted some elements of role playing games to motivate noders to contribute their work to the site. The Iron Noder challenge many of us are participating in is very much a mini-game within the overall gamified structure of the site: we get site rewards (GP) for producing a certain number of writeups, and someone will get a monetary reward for the best humorous writeup. This is very clearly a contest (game) designed to motivate us to write well (task mastery) and often (productivity).

The overall goal for any kind of gamification is to make activities fun through awarding points or badges, recognizing players through leaderboards, etc. Other game mechanics used in gamification include:

  • Achieving levels
  • Completing quests
  • Winning virtual goods
  • Being able to give virtual gifts to other players
  • Generating real-world money for charities
  • Creating and reinforcing online friendships and other social connections

Gamification has become a pretty big buzzword in education over the past few years. It is related to (but distinct from) game-based learning, which is the use of a game to learn specific concepts or skills. There's not a very clear line between the two; a gamified course might very well use an educational game as a gamification element in the curriculum. But unlike game-based learning, gamification does not need to involve specific learning outcomes; the goals are to motivate, engage, and change learner behaviors.

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