There has been much buzz about gamification in the last few years -- both the word itself and the practices it may or may not describe. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Dr. Kapp and several of the contributors to this book at TechKnowledge 2012, and we spent a great deal of time -- both during the panel and in preparation for it -- talking about that very terminology.
And while I do think there is value in those conversations, my primary concern about the gamification trend is less about the terminology being used and more about the possibility that the hype will continue to promote the creation of two things in the broad field of learning design and development:
- interactions that are amusing but not meaningful (which are already promoted by so many authoring tools promising easy engagement), and
- learning games that are just lame... perhaps the content is meaningful, but the addition of game mechanics isn't.
Knowing how challenging game design is and keeping those possible undesirable effects in mind, I decided to read The Gamification of Learning and Instruction with one lens only:
Assuming you are a typical instructional designer -- whatever that means -- what will you gain from this book?
And here are my answers to that question.
1) Possibly more than anything else, you will be able to articulate why and in what circumstances games can be more effective than other learning interventions. It may sound trivial, but full-on game development is more expensive and time-consuming (so, again, expensive) than ordinary elearning and stakeholders may not consider "games" to be serious, effective solutions. So instructional designers who want to explore game design (or explore hiring a game design company) may well need facts, research studies, and either a full round of ammo or +10 to charisma to get their points across.
2) You will have an appreciation for how many pitfalls there are in educational game design. And I think this is a good thing... not to discourage designers from stretching their skills, but to discourage them from doing so lightly and creating, as I said, lame designs.
3) You will be familiar with some of the reasons that people play games in ways that go far beyond "because they're fun". In particular, I liked Kapp's inclusion of Richard Bartle's gamer types, because they help us understand that different people will derive value from different aspects of gameplay. Designing to those preferences may or may not improve the outcomes of the game, but knowing about them is a start.
4) You will learn about a variety of games created for both educational and corporate use. This is an extremely important part of skill development for me and pretty much all instructional designers that I know; seeing examples is great first scaffolding for skill-building.
5) You will be encouraged to learn more about games in the best possible way -- by playing them!
Truthfully, there are many more reasons to read this book, but now I have to come back to the original lens and ask what a typical instructional designer would be able to do with these gains. Will you go out and create large-scale, well-balanced serious games? No. But I do think you'll have a good background to determine whether a game is an appropriate learning intervention, hire a game development vendor and evaluate game designs from a much more educated standpoint, and, if you want, dip your toes into designs of your own... even if just for practice.
All in all, this is a great resource to gain a foundation in the aspects of game design for learning.