IL2011: Closing Keynote

The Great Gamification Debate
Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Rochester Institute for Technology
Director, Lab for Social Computing & Professor of Interactive Games and Media

I don’t actually like this word, “gamification.” Application of game mechanics to non-game environments. Foursquare badges, frequent flyer points.

Clip of Jesse Schell at DICE 2010 – instructor who doesn’t give grades, gives experience points. Gamified grading – attendance is up, assignments are better. Imagine when this is applied to all your affinity programs and the like.

Clip of Ian Bogost – – useful theory of bullshit.

Sebastian Deterding – what do the points represent? If they only represent that you jumped through someone’s hoop, that’s not motivating. Do you feel competent? That’s powerful. A bingo in scrabble – not just the point, but you did something difficult and it’s been recognized.

Students arrive on campus and want to graduate & get a job. Things to do along the way, they don’t know why. Kind of resent it. It’s a hero’s journey – all the obstacles turn out to have a point and are more important than the ending. Games are good at showing us this. School is broken – we know they need things we have! But they don’t trust us by the time they get there. Want to help them see the helpfulness of what they’re doing.

Gamification that worked – Foursquare is a good example. Good game systems let you reflect back and look at your inventory of stuff you’ve collected. See your badges and stats. Build a way to allow students to do this with school. Feedback loops enable us to modify our behavior in an empowering way.

But, risk to attaching extrinsic reward to something that’s not intrinsically interesting. Breaks their intrinsic motivation to do whatever it is. Gold star for drawing means I draw less on my own – I expect to be rewarded.

Autonomy. Shouldn’t feel like you have to do something – you choose to do it, ideally it fits into day to day life. We can’t push them into the things we want them to do.

What behaviors do we want to reward & encourage? (We know they do better if they eat breakfast, collaborate, they don’t buy it.) What feelings of competence could we engender? What did we want our students to remember and reflect on?

Developed an axis: athenaeum and mechanics (history of RIT) and shared and individual work. Levels: apprentice, journeyman, master – masters can contribute achievements. Circular chart for visualization – you can see when you’re off balance between the quadrants. But labels got in the way.

Game is in the real world – website is just a collection. All faculty & staff have a collectible card that is an achievement. Liz’s is you need to make me laugh. You get the card with the code to unlock the achievement. Why do this? If they make a human connection with a faulty member it reduces likelihood they’ll leave. Interaction, reason to come to office that’s positive. RFID keychain – have hidden readers around campus. Have wireless ones that can be taken to campus events. Activate the environment – eventually these will make things come up on screens. There will be one on top of the climbing wall!

Quadrants: social exploration – try a new thing. Participate in a flash mob. Go to a board game event. Eat dinner off campus with 12 other people and take a picture. Tell the story when you submit an achievement that’s not automated – we want to collect and expose the lore.

MSFT gave them a good amount of money in June. Made Sept launch unrealistic – we’ll launch at Homecoming in mid-Oct. Library & ed tech people made an awesome video for them! Could use video to deflect some mistakes on launch day. Had to take the website down a few times.

Cool things from the past few days. Just in the school of interactive games & media there are 720 undergrads – launched only for them for now. 400 so far have registered to play – it’s only Wednesday!

Activities are unlocking the humor and playfulness in their faculty and on their campus. Connections!

Lots of problems, students are still loving it. Things can’t redeem, can’t log in – but they’re forgiving about it and want to see more.

Going to open source the platform next summer! Going to test it next year in an urban law school, someone who is going to try it in an urban middle school.

The platform is important and hard to do well, but it’s the time thinking about the nature of your students, the challenges that they face in particular, which activities would work in your environment – that’s what you need. What works for us won’t work everywhere – even within our campus. – 24-48 hours to post slides!