I love this piece on “gamification” from Margaret Robertson (in 2010!). She writes:
[Points and badges] are the least important bit of a game, the bit that has the least to do with all of the rich cognitive, emotional and social drivers which gamifiers are intending to connect with.
Points Aren’t Delight
She’s absolutely right. Earning badges, scoring points, and leveling-up are certainly a part of games. But it’s not what makes games delightful.
I didn’t play The Legend of Zelda when I was 8 to score the most points. Zelda doesn’t even have points! Now, as an adult, I’m 60 hours into the latest Zelda game. It’s not points or badges that keep me coming back, but the exploration and discovery.
Robertson says that most “gamification” should really be called “pointification”, which I heartily agree with.
Symbols of the Journey
See, Zelda has items to gather, heart containers to collect, and pieces of the Triforce to earn, but these are just symbols of the journey. It’s the journey itself that motivates!
Robertson likens badges and points to the punch card at your coffee shop. They keep track of progress, but aren’t progress in themselves. If you hate the coffee, the punch card sure won’t keep you coming back!
It’s the journey of Zelda that keeps me coming back. The complexity of the world. The wonderment of what lies beyond mountains. The challenge of solving a puzzle or defeating a foe.
It Has To Be Interesting
Students aren’t going to love math if we add points and badges. They’ll love math when we make it so interesting that they can’t wait to dig in.
Points and badges can be a part of that – a way to track what they’ve accomplished. But points and badges aren’t the accomplishments themselves.
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