Please don’t let “Gamblification” become a thing in learning!

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I often hear people talking about adding elements of chance to an experience to make it more interesting. For instance, adding a random reward for doing a certain task in a system….

Source: Gamblification – don’t gamble with your people unless you are sure! – Gamified UK – #Gamification Expert

While many, if not most games include some element of chance, this is NOT something we should add to learning games. At least, not when it comes to rewards. OF COURSE, we still need randomness in our games – all games are simulations and all simulations use randomness (check out my book for more on that).

If gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, then gamblification is the use of gambling elements in non-gambling contexts.
Fair enough.
If you want to increase visits to your website, by all means, feel free to offer some sort of random reward (like spin the wheel coupons, or randomly selected deals).

If you are going for gameful learning, on the other hand, then



The thing with learning, you see, is that the actual learning part should NOT be random.
It should be deliberate.

There are a few places where you might be able to introduce an element of randomness (like which assignment you get out of a set of possible assignments, or which quiz, ….), but any time you include a random element in your classes,
about why you are doing it, what YOU hope to accomplish by it, and what you think your students will get out of it.

There are already too many places in formal learning where randomness happens.

Please don’t do this to your learners on purpose.
It’s really not helpful.

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Please don’t let “Gamblification” become a thing in learning! — 2 Comments

  1. Life is full of gambles, including in education. Decisions like what program to go into, school, specific courses, whether to go for the pass vs high mark, are all gambles. I think making these “gambles” more explicit sooner in life could be quite helpful to students. There is also an element of chance to whether you get punished for errors or even crimes. Deciding whether to guess on a multiple choice is a decision that should change depending on the marking scheme becasue the odds change.
    Thoughts? Am I even on topic 🙂 ? My attempt to contribtue was triggered by your statement “THINK VERY CAREFULLY about why you are doing it, what YOU hope to accomplish by it, and what you think your students will get out of it.” I agree, and that statement should be applied to many things.

    • Life is indeed full of gambles and random events, and I agree it could be useful for people to learn more about how to recognize them and how to assess risk. I have long advocated for a greater focus on probability and statistics in math education, which would, at least in part, start to address this issue.
      That said, the kind of “gamblification” that I think the article is talking about is related to the larger context of what I see as a superficial approach to gamification. It has to do with a sort of cargo-cult mentality that holds that we can create the kind of engagement that games have simply by copying the superficial aspects, such as points, badges, and leaderboards. Many (most?) games have a considerable random aspect to it (bad guys and other hazards appearing, power-ups, sudden challenges, …). While this can add to the fun of a good game, these kinds of surprises are a really bad idea if they are applied to rewards and punishments in learning.

      The traditional “randomness” of grades is bad enough. We really shouldn’t be piling on by adding yet more random elements that the students cannot control and therefor must simply endure.

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