Gamification Toolbox: Social Interaction

Gamification Toolbox: Social Interaction

While a lot of the techniques from gamification were derived from game design, this does not mean we have to turn every aspect of our lives into a game. Our win scenario is simply being able to present a situation in a way that best motivates and engages user behavior. Whether those users be our students, peers, customers, or employees; we want to provide them with interactions and feedback that makes them excited to get involved.

Gamification has a number of tools under its belt to accomplish this, and understanding how each of these tools can be used will give us a better idea of where we can use Gamification to help improve our designs. Previously we have loosely defined what Gamification is, and taken a quick look at the type of real world problems that might actually call for a solution. Now it is time to start taking a look at the specific techniques that exist within the Gamification tool box.

One of the biggest leverages people are starting to take advantage of is social interaction. Connecting a group of people and giving them the tools to properly interact with each other can exponential increase the gains of a system, where otherwise resources or oversight would be limited. Both competition and collaboration can bring new energy into just about any project whether it be in the office or in the class room.


What problem is Gamification addressing?

Gamification is more then a high score

We've taken a brief look on what the word gamification means, which is to use design techniques usually associated with games and apply them to motivate and engage a specific audience. There was a blog not to recently however, that claimed that Gamification is the solution to a problem that doesn't exist; that we already have a universal point system, and it is called 'money'.

There are at least two problems with this. First off, money is not an effective point gauge system for measuring incentive or value. As a means of incentive it turns out that after a certain threshold (estimated at around $75,000 a year in the US), more money does not actually make you happier. There is even research which says that money incentives can have a negative impact on work output, specifically for any task that requires cognitive thinking or problem solving in a given time frame. And as a measurement of value, what is most often the case is that you do not make what you earn, you make what you can negotiate. There are plenty of low paying high impact jobs (ex. teaching, fire fighting, law enforcement) which stand converse to the high paying non-critical careers (ex. professional sports, theoretical finance, patent lawyers).

Secondly, there are a lot of problems in the world that could benefit from Gamification. Trying to simplify the process of Gamification as slapping a point system on everything, misses a lot of the design space and potential of applying it to real world situations. Part of the Gamification tool box includes being able to balance short term and long term goals, producing better feed back mechanics, creating socially collaborative and supportive structures, and creating unexpected rewards and challenges to keep people engaged.

There are many places in the world that could benefit from employing some of these measures. So in order to show that there is a place for gamification in our lives, I wanted to point out some of the specific examples in both education and business where there are problems that need to be solved.


Open Source Education

The Idea of a free online education has been around for a while, but despite the availability of instant access to information across the world for years now, we are only just seeing groups starting to take advantage of the potential. So who is going to finally crack the formula for effective engaging online education?

There are plenty of sites that offer tutorials or information about a specific subject. It is even possible to pay a tuition to attend online universities of various reputations. But few actually attempt to offer a free, effective, engaging educational experience that is geared towards the internet. Fortunately there are a few organizations stepping up to take on this issue such as the Khan academy. There are even several prominent universities that are looking into solutions for this as well.

For a while now MIT has been offering OpenCourseWare on the web; A catalog of over 2000 different MIT courses offering lecture notes, assignments, exams, and video's from an entire semester worth of classes. All of these resources are taken directly from the same classes they teach on campus to MIT students seeking their Graduate or Master degrees. Best of all it is entirely free and no registration is required.

Open Course Ware is an incredible resource, but not without its issues. For one you don't have access to the text books (sold separately), and similarly the lecture notes they provide are delivered as power points without any of the dialog that expanded on them. Assignments and exams don't always include answers. Video media are just recordings of the full hour-long class lectures. And you can not get any degree or certification by simply completing the content on your own.  Still it is free content from one of the most highly respected schools in its field, and now MIT thinks it can do even better.

The really cool news is that MIT intends to create brand new content based on their open course ware that is produced specifically for the web. Currently called MITx, it was built from the ground up to be a web-based experience available to everyone. Just like their open course ware it will be completely free, while MIT on campus students will see it start to supplement their in class education as well. They even intend to offer high quality certification testing, where for a fee you take a fairly challenging test that will prove your credentials for many high level topics.

The pilot program is supposedly being made available this spring. So with the idea of open source education in mind I wanted to take a minute to think about how producing educating content for the web will be different from an on-campus education.


Is Gamification A Real Word?

Gamification involves the use of design techniques to motivate and engage people in situations not typically associated with games. Over the past few years, more people have been considering how this could change the way we think about business, education, and the world. So can Gamification be something we take seriously, or is it merely a buzz word describing concepts that have been around for decades?