Game On!

The feeling of being immersed in another world that allows to you interact with more adrenaline creating activities than most people will ever have in their lifetimes has a draw that has impacted generations and made billions.

Educators seeking to “game-ify” their classrooms or certain lessons are taping into a proven way to engage students by attempting to use the behavior shaping aspects of video games. Video games often have a storyline, which may be as simple as “you have to kill enemy planes or be killed”. The thrill of shooting down and dominating an adversary is thrilling even if only in the 2d world of a device screen. More complex stories like Assassins Creed provide a complex character and plot to engage the user.

In both cases imagination and fantasy come in for a close up. The game allows you to deceive yourself that the character’s superhero ability is somehow your own because “you” are shooting, jumping, dominating or using your smarts to figure out the mystery or out play your opponent.

Gameplay Trailer Assassins Creed

The appeal of a facilitated fantasy of near omnipotence is almost too much for people, especially young people to resist. The Bartle test was created to analyze the characteristics of individuals based on their gaming style and preferences. The attempts to better understand students and the way their mind works is key to differentiating content design.

Bartles Character Theory Chart.png

Hollywood has the behavioral science of planned and timed reinforcement down pat. The game gives endorphin-producing shots of adrenaline. The study of behavioral game theory as opposed to traditional game theory shows that players don’t always make utility maximizing choices. To me this implies a certain level of emotional irrationality.

UMass Article on Game Theory and Behavior

The idea of constructing lessons that utilize the power of creating stories and contexts that are intrinsically motivating to students is just too powerful to ignore. I think that we most study what science is learning about the brain and behavior as well as learning paths and motivation to be able to create meaningful and successful instruction.

A few years ago everyone was trying to use mine craft in the classroom as a breakthrough game but also to gamify lessons using MC to teach visualizing and verbalizing, proportions or to virtually explore historical structures. This type of activity crossed the boundaries between the idea of using games to teach and gamification because mine craft is more a platform than a game so educators are able to construct lessons using the mine craft environment rather than using a specific game.mine craft.jpg


I think the future potential for gamifying instruction is huge and like VR and AI will in effect, simply become an integral part of instructional design. However, like the other two technologies, we are not there yet. I applaud teachers who are attempting to implement the winning strategies of games in instruction but most of what I have seen doesn’t have the appeal to engage students at the same level as successful games.

Good teaching will use any and all techniques that a teacher can make her own, so good teachers will figure this out based on their own inspiration. When technology and game producers and brain researchers get to a threshold stage I think that gamification will simply be an aspect of learning and education will be able to leverage the learning advantages of gamification.


2 thoughts on “Game On!

  1. I must admit, I am not a gamer. My gaming experience dates back to Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo, PacMan on the Atari, and a few select computer games (The Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, Number Munchers, Math Blaster, etc). When my students talk about the games that you mentioned in your post, I am usually turned off. I am not big into shooting things or warfare. However, I can see, now that I read your post, that some of those games do help with strategy building skills and may help students with creativity. Luckily, I have some time before my son realizes what these games are all about! Nice job with your post!


  2. Awesome post and shared insight! I am extremely interested in the Bartle Test and U Mass article on Game Theory and Behavior you’ve shared. I have to say that in my working experience, there has been less of an interest in games as an educational tool. I can’t help to think that this is do to Common Core State State Standards which emphasize traditional literacies rather than a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st Century. I hope you are right in saying, “I think the future potential for gamifying instruction is huge and like VR and AI will in effect, simply become an integral part of instructional “, because if educators don’t pay greater attention to the way kids already learn and want to learn, and use those platforms in the classroom, we’re losing a powerful educational opportunity.


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