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IL 2011 Endnote: The Great Gamification Debate

Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Director of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Lab for Social Computing, returned to Internet Librarian to present the endnote address on “gamification”, the application of game mechanics to non-game situations.

Liz Lawley

Frequent flyer points, shopping points, etc. can be called games. Gamification was invented to make games accessible in the context of ordinary business. Of course, points have value in games; it is a question of what you are using them for. If they give you a sense of competence, they are very powerful. You feel good if you did something difficult and somebody else recognizes it is difficult.

An RIT staff member had a game idea: students should get achievements for being awesome. It is hard to do this well. Students arrive on campus wanting to graduate, get a job, etc. and do not understand why they have to do all the things they do. Their experience at college is visualized as a hero’s journey. All the obstacles they must face have a reason.

Games like Foursquare allow you to reflect back on what you have done and feel good. For example sends an e-mail about what you did in the game a year ago. There are many dangers trying to get students to do things. If you give them a star for something, they will do it less because they expect a reward. They will not volunteer to do things once the reward is in place. We must be careful not to break students’ intrinsic motivation. They should not feel like they have to do something–it is about the autonomy. They have to want to do it!  We need to consider:

  • What are the behaviors we want to reward and encourage?
  • What feelings of competence could we engender?
  • What did we want our students to remember and reflect on?

In the game at RIT (“Just Press Play“), students do things, collect achievements, and get recognition. They must take risks and try things. When they register for the fame, they get an RFID key fob that they scan when they accomplish something. So far, over 400 students have registered to play. One result of the game was that they began introducing themselves to each other so they can play. These are experiences that students will remember. The game allows them to interact with the faculty and see them as human beings. All students play games, and if you design the content properly, you can get them to engage. You need a platform and spend time thinking about the content. it is all about the experience.

See all of Liz’s slides here.


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