There’s more to Gamification than Narratives and Competition

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Survival of the Fittest (Gamification)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I start class by explaining to the students that they have been cast on a reality TV show called “Survival of the Fittest”.  This is the letter I give them:  (all materials can be found in this shared document).

Dear Students,

In an effort to supplement my teaching salary, I have volunteered all of you to be part of a new reality show called Survival of the Fittest.  The producers of the show and I are very excited to begin this endeavor.
Survival of the Fittest is a game where you are a member of a team and need to only stay alive for the duration of the show in order to win.  There will only be one winning team in the game.    Winners will receive bragging rights along with extensive knowlegde of     ___________________.

In order to survive, you will need supplies such as water, food, weapons, and a bit of good luck.  Other teams may try to sabotage you, so be alert.  Anything could happen in this game as the “game-creators” are attempting to put on a good show and boost television ratings.

 To begin, you will be flown to a remote location without any communication devices available to you.  You and your team will have the opportunity to earn supplies to help keep you alive.  Guard these supplies with your life, as you may need them to survive.

 I wish you luck and may the best team win!


I’m using a gamified design in my classes that’s working extremely well, but I don’t layer a narrative on top of my course.

I have two concerns with this design:
1. There is a risk that the narrative will overshadow the actual learning objectives of the course of unit. The ‘content’ is depreciated to become little more than the thing you need to do to win the game. Good gamification should do the opposite: it should focus attention on the content. I don’t have a problem with narratives per se, but they need to be specifically tailored to the content of the unit. A narrative into which we can “drop” course content is really not much different from a game wrapper. If there are ANY people in your class who don’t like the narrative, then it becomes a barrier to learning. If all you are doing is switching one group of disengaged learners for a different group of disengaged learners, you are not making progress.

2. Only SOME students like competing against each other. They tend to be the more extroverted students. Introverts are often put off by competition. I think punitive measures (like losing health) interfere with learning, unless the ‘failure’ is directly related to the thing they are trying to learn.

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