Playing videogames on Playstation 4, Uncharted 3 with the controller in front.
/ Gameful / ,

Becoming Gameful

Failure is always an option

Since students begin with no points, the sky’s the limit, because they have nothing to lose. A failure doesn’t mean the end of the line. Malcolm Gladwell famously stated that you need 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. It is a lot, and we don’t have enough time in the school day to get us close. However, we can get our students closer and more comfortable with the idea that failure isn’t the endall.

An animated GIF showing Sonic drowning. Failing and restarting is part of a gameful pedagogy.
Sonic can drown as many times as the player needs to get the layout of a level.

A test where a student gets 60% of the questions right is, traditionally, failing. However, if we say the student was able to get 18 out of 30 available points, it is still that 60%, however less intimidating. Therefore, this is an achievement which tells us there is still work to do.

If we then allow the student to go over the assignment and give them the ability to work on improving the areas they missed, our classroom becomes a space of learning to show growth. This reassessment is part of the process of growing and achieving more.

Students should never see their progress undone, as it is impossible to unlearn something. From the first day of school, the only way out is up. The question to ask is: How much?

Choose your own adventure

Real life is full of seemingly small choices of whether or not to help someone, let alone hinder them. Various video games have played with this idea in different forms: from allowing you to choose between an honorable or dishonorable path, or giving you the option to select the approach for a heist; the outcome is the same: you receive a reward and you move along in the story.

An image from Carmen San Diego, presenting the player with two options on approaching a situation. Choice is part of a gameful pedagogy.

Why should learning be any different? There are numerous ways to show learning and growth. Besides, not everyone is created equally, and it’s good to have options when doing something.

There are several ways to give students that choice:

  • choose among limited assignments (you offer 10 assignments and they select 5)
  • how they complete the assignment (due dates, content covered, or assignment format)
  • what types of assignments they might complete (choosing from exams, group or individual projects, papers, presentations)

The key tenet here is that the assessed standards don’t change. The delivery of those standards is what is different. This way students have a sense of ownership about the work they’re doing. It will also minimizes the amount of times students will be doing work they hate doing. Which will lead to better performance from students actually doing work because they want to do it.