Elements of Gamification: Connection to Content

While out in Vancouver I came across two contrasting examples of gamification. One example illustrated the power to engage and educate while the other example arguably served to engage the participant. As I look to create a gamified learning experience, the end goal is to engage and teach rather than to simply entertain. The connection and integration of learning goals will be critical as I design my gamified learning experience for teachers.

Example 1: Efficient Forms of Transportation – Telus Science World

Whenever visiting Vancouver with the kids, a popular stop for us is Telus Science World. Located in the beautiful False Creek area of downtown Vancouver, it offers a great assortment of displays and activities for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend it!

The Gaming Element

Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.

Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.

One particular display offers a hands-on, competitive game to illustrate different methods of transportation and uses a common midway, derby game to promote energy efficient ways of moving around a city. Up to 5 participants compete against each other in a race where they each advance their character or avatar along the board by scoring points in this bowling-type game. More points are earned by sinking the ball in holes that are attached to more efficient methods of transportation. The more points earned results in your character advancing quickly across the board compared to a player who is scoring less energy efficient modes of transportation. Scoring a car as a mode of transportation will earn you 1 step forward, public transit will earn you 2 steps forward and biking will award you 5 steps forward. The contestant who is able to move their character across the finish line first wins the race and competition.

The Connection to Content and Learning

The element of competition and the simple rules of gameplay make this a popular and engaging exhibit for kids (and adults) of all ages. The graphics and theme of this game attempt to generate a greater awareness of energy efficient modes of transportation. Unfortunately in this particular example, I feel as though the content takes a backseat to the game. When I asked my kids about efficient modes of travelling around the city, they were unable to tell me why biking to work was a more energy efficient way of transportation compared to commuting with a vehicle. Assuming that the learning goal for this activity was to have players understand energy efficient modes of transportation, the design of the game failed to effectively connect to the content.  For me, this is an outcome that I want to avoid in my support of teachers and students. If I am to illustrate the power of gamification in supporting learning, then I need to ensure that my gaming elements do more than simply entertain my audience.

Example 2: Driving Behaviour and Mileage – 2013 Toyota Rav4

The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.

The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.

I had a chance to use a 2013 Toyota Rav4 while travelling around the Greater Vancouver area and I became engrossed in a built-in feature that serves to inform the driver on their fuel economy in real time. Using the LCD display mounted in the dash, drivers (and passengers) can quickly see their overall fuel economy (l/100km) for a trip, follow a minute-by-minute break down of their fuel economy  over the last 15 minutes of driving as well as check their current, real-time fuel economy statistic that will literally change based upon the action on the accelerator and the resulting engine revolutions. In essence, this instant feedback and data on your fuel economy and driving habits gamified the driving experience. I admittedly referred to these statistics several times and became engrossed in how my use of the accelerator impacted the fuel economy. Basically, it became a game of trying to better my fuel economy over my previous trip.

The Connection to Content and Learning

This feedback feature helped inform and encourage driving habits that maximize fuel economy. In this particular implementation, gaming elements and content were intimately connected. Since the content or learning goal was to identify and establish fuel efficient driving practices, the use of both collected and real-time data on fuel consumption served to gamify the driving experience. In a way, trying to determine accelerator habits in order to improve one’s fuel economy was the game itself.

This experience illustrated a critical concept for me and my understanding of gamification. The learning was based in the gamified experience where in this particular instance the participant discovers firsthand how driving habits impact fuel consumption and perhaps more importantly, serves to potentially impact how we drive in the long term. The learning was active and facilitated through the gaming mechanisms displayed in the dash of the car.

What this means for me and my project

Content and Context:

If I hope to have teachers learn more about this All-in-One computer (see my proposal to gamify a teacher research) and how it can be used effectively to promote collaborative learning then:

– the gaming elements need to facilitate the learning on the HP All-in-One itself
– there needs to be an element of instant feedback
– there needs to be an element of discovery and play

Next Steps:

–  I will need to spend some time with the hardware (HP All-in-One) and software (Windows 8) and determine the specific concepts and content that I want to address and cover with teachers.
– I need to find or create a system or platform that I can use and customize in order to provide instant feedback to the teacher who is navigating my resources on the HP All-in-One. My early research on a potential platform seems to be pointing me towards Google docs and perhaps Google+.
– Determine a task or set of tasks (that is accomplished through using the HP All-in-One) that allows for and promotes discovery and play. A lot of research surrounding gamification identify the concept of appropriate challenge and/or problem solving in effective gaming (Byl, 2012; Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012; McGonigal, 2011). Based on that, I would imagine that creative tasks or challenges that reflect activities in the classroom would be of greater interest to the teacher.



Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite: http://www.ascilite2012.org/images/custom/de_byl,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZGCPap7GkY

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

Author: K. Takahashi

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