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Gamifying Work


My character, currently attired as a pirate, standing next to his pet, a flying pig.

I’ve always wondered how one might go about gamifying the workplace, and quite by accident, I discovered a way how. Although not specifically designed for work, HabitRPG is a “free habit building app that treats your life like a game,” and I and a colleague have started using it to gamify part of our work-life.

If you are like me, there’s plenty of things to do at work, so many things that it’s very easy to lose track of what one needs to do, so I take advantage of to-do lists. Every day, I create a to-do list of work that needs to be completed that day, even if it’s a simple thing, such as getting onto my Instant Messenger account or checking my calendar (seriously, as sad as it seems, if I didn’t remind myself to do these things, I wouldn’t do them). And if an item doesn’t get done, it gets pushed to the next day.

HabitRPG transforms to-do lists, as well as your overall habits, into a simple fantasy role-playing game (RPG). Like most of the RPGs in the fantasy genre, you undertake a persona called a “character” who starts out as a lowly adventurer. By completing quests, you gain experience, gold, and other treasures that help your character slowly build him/herself into a hero.

Quests in HabitRPG take on the form of individual habits (such as “isolating oneself for 1hr to get something done”) or individual items on to-do lists. When you complete a habit or an item on a to-do list, you are rewarded with experience, gold, and, if you’re lucky, you might find a piece of treasure you can use later in the game. The more you complete your tasks, the more powerful your character becomes.

And, as in any RPG, your character is in constant peril. Uncompleted tasks deal out damage, and if your character receives too much damage, your character will die. Never fear, your character will be resurrected, but there will be penalties, such as a loss of experience and treasure. This mechanic forces you to stay on top of your to-do lists, for if you let them go, you’ll pay the price.

I’ve started using HabitRPG for all of my to-do lists, including the one I use at work. I won’t claim an increase in productivity or anything like that, but the game does make keeping track of my worklife much more enjoyable than it used to be (and I get rewarded if I do something I normally procrastinate on, such as writing a blog post). Also, there are ways to team up with other players, such as your co-workers, which might make the workplace an even more congenial place, but we haven’t tried those aspects of the game yet.

The rules and mechanics to HabitRPG go much deeper than I have described–tasks can have different difficulty levels, you can collect and feed pets, you cast spells. . . just to name a few of the complexities of the game. But, overall, HabitRPG operates on a simple premise: For every task in life you complete, you and your character become hardier and stronger.


Flashcard Gamification

With our Flashcard application, I am trying to make gamification a focal point. I want the games to be modular so anyone can create new games and I want games that are multiplayer. Friendly competition within the class would be ideal.

Competition among a scoring system is too antisocial. The score scroll at the end of a game of donkey kong doesn’t make for a lot of interest in this day and age.

I have a couple of ideas.

A “card” game. Each student is dealt the same 5 cards from a “deck”. They see only one side of the 5 cards. The reverse of one of those cards is displayed and the first student to select the correct card gets a point. That card is then replaced with a new one. Having them both have the same cards takes any chance out of the game. It is time based, which means it is reliant on students being on at the same time.

So a variation of the previous could be one student plays and waits for the other student to play and they don’t lose a point unless they get it wrong. Players could be matched based on how much they’ve studied.

But is that fun? I think after a while, most people would just get bored of it.

Word games on phones are quite popular, but they’re all just variations of word scrambles, word finds, or crosswords. These are simple and not very applicable to a flashcard framework.

I stopped writing this and don’t have the motivation to continue, so I’m just going to post what I have.

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Gamification in Software Development

Gamification has been on my mind a lot lately.

I was just doing some of my sprint planning and found myself filling out borderline excessive github issues for my project. I put all of the issues for the current sprint into aptly named milestones. So as I finish the issues in the milestone, the milestone progress bar gets filled up. I recently realized I enjoy doing this because it’s very game-like.

I’ve turned work into a game and I think it has increased productivity and general happiness with employment. Maybe that sounds lame, but it seems true in my case, I would recommend it for most people who are finding their current work stale and are looking for some self motivation.

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Badgered about badges: Will higher ed be shook up by alternative credentials?

Harvard badgesOne of the big buzzwords circulating through the halls of academia has been “gamification,” the concept of introducing game-like elements into the higher ed environment. The NMC Horizon Report of both 2011 and 2012 indicated that game-based learning is a growing trend in the classroom, and just within the past month, articles in the New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education highlight an element of gamification that may very well disrupt the entire paradigm of attending a school to earn a degree. This new element is the digital “badge,” a possible foundation for what might be called the “alternative credentialing” movement.

This movement is serious business.  The Mozilla Foundation has established the Open Badges project, which, with support from the MacArthur Foundation, is defining the Open Badge Infrastructure, a technology suite that can be used to build an ecosystem of badges.  The Digital Media and Learning Competition, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, awarded several grants to institutions such as Disney-Pixar and NASA to explore the concept of badges in life-long learning. Prominent Universities, including Duke, Purdue, and Carnegie-Mellon, are also experimenting with badges. And badges will probably play a significant role in the credentialing process of the now ubiquitous MOOCs.

The question remains, of course, as to whether badges will ever be considered as valuable as a regular degree. The jury is out on that one, and probably will continue to deliberate on this issue for years, if not decades, to come. But should the time come when a collection of badges on your resume is equivalent to a degree from a major University, prepare to witness a revolution in higher education.

Gamificationating Education

I’ve been hearing people talk about gamification ever since I entered academia as a workplace. At first I thought of it as a joke. I mean, obviously a joke.

The problem is the minimal amount of success with it. People keep trying and failing. More to the point they talk about it but are unable to implement anything with confidence. I keep seeing conferences throwing forward the gamification buzz word, but nothing comes of it. Why aren’t people doing it? Why hasn’t it revolutionized education as some keep promising.

The options for gamifying education are:

  • Make a game with educational content
  • Give badges or achievements for whatever
  • Leaderboards
  • Experience / Levels
  • Unlocking content

The primary problem is people want to make entire games centered around their content. And that is a wonderful idea, except it requires people to build the initial content and add content. It would basically require someone who knows the content inside and out to design it properly. Same with unlocking content. Someone has to create that content. That will die out very fast unless you have a zealot very into it.

Slime Forest is a perfect example of this. I was made aware of this project very early on and I LOVED it. It took a game from my childhood and made it all about learning japanese. This would have made a wonderful open source project, but it has a zealot behind it who wanted to make some cash, so good for him.

Badges and achievements are fairly new for games, and only work on certain personalities, completionists. Leaderboards work for people who want to be the best at something, and want everyone else to know it. Experience / Levels is hard to qualify. What do you get experience for, what do you get when you level up…

I used to be really into experts-exchange. That was the site that used to pop up whenever you googled a tech question. A simple forum that let people answer the questions and they would be rewarded points for their answer. This had leaderboards based on the points you got from answering the questions. The best part was everything was managed by the users. (The worst part was they tried to fool people into paying for it.) Stack Overflow took over this market probably because EE got too greedy. SO does have badges and tracks reputation points, but they don’t have topics with a list of the top 100 experts in that field. So it sort of has experience points and badges but no leaderboard.

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