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

Becoming Gameful

Transparency is key

When you start a video game you know exactly what you’re getting into. There might be some surprises hidden here and there, but the idea of what you need to do to beat the game is clear.

An example of a skill tree from Jedi: Fallen Order, showing different paths a player can take to grow their abilities. Transparency is key in a gameful course.
You have a clear idea of what is available to be a better Jedi in Fallen Order.

The same should apply to your course when being gameful. When students read your syllabus they should know what lies ahead. The syllabus contains clearly delineated assignments. There is an easy to understand grading policy. It also includes a clearly defined path for the student to succeed.

When grading, you are using rubrics that have been shared with students well-ahead of beginning work on the assignment. In well designed games you know your goal and exactly why you fail. In a gameful course this manifests as clear expectations for what it will take to succeed on an assignment and understandable feedback if they don’t.


The final key component of gameful pedagogy is providing immediate feedback. Whenever you are playing a video game and something goes wrong, you know about it: You lose a heart, there is a loud beeping noise, the screen goes dark.

A GIF showing a life meter in a Zelda game filling up. An example of immediate feedback, which is part of gameful pedagogy.
Zelda is notorious for its constant beeping when low in hearts.

We’ve all been there as teachers. We have a pile of papers to grade, and not enough time. But keep in mind that, just like in video games, feedback comes in many shapes and sizes.

Rubrics allow you to assess and provide feedback on student submissions in a more rapid and consistent manner. The more detailed assessment information present in a good rubric means that students generally feel like they’ve gotten better feedback, despite the teacher having spent less time grading.

Becoming gameful

I know this seems like a monumental task. I’m not going to sugar coat it, as it is definitely a daunting job. However, I can tell you that you must sow the seeds before you can reap the rewards.

By implementing gameful pedagogy in your classroom you will start seeing changes in your students. They will become more engaged and will start to participate. Students do want to be challenged. It’s time to rethink the how we challenge them.

Stay connected to follow the coming blog posts in my series on Becoming Gameful, to learn more ways to use game elements and mechanics in your courses.