Yu-kai’s note: through the influence of many of the books mentioned in this article and through my own 20+ year of research, I decided to publish a Gamification Book that is now the de facto education material about Gamification in classrooms around the world.
With non-fiction, I usually read quickly (scan), apply what I’ve learned, then come back later as needed to refresh. I prefer to learn by doing. This is the case for my education in gamification, too (I built an iPhone app instead of reading too much about it.)
For me, books are just a great way to see how others have done it and test against your own approach.
I borrowed my brother’s copy of The Lord of the Rings from his bookshelf. I was nine years old. Ever since, reading has been my favorite way to consume content. With a book in hand or on screen, I can read as fast or as slow as I want, mark the pages, save comments for later, and return to the book when needed. (I still think reading is one of the biggest level-ups any parent can give their child. And I believe that many of us can improve our reading ability and critical thinking well into adulthood.)
An introduction to games and gaming
Like a lot of you, I came up playing a lot of video games. Solo, with friends, against friends. It was our education and our entertainment. I remember sneaking into my mom and dad’s bedroom to play MathBlaster. They were only mildly annoyed I’d woken them up. I was learning, after all.
I also wrote about games. Here’s some notes from my journal when I was 10.
Later, my first real article to hit 50,000 reads was about Super Smash Brothers 64. I was 19 when I wrote that, but had written and discussed and analyzed games ever since I started playing them.
Later, I naturally came to gamification and design through a love of understanding and mastering systems. Even though I was in the “real world” now, I still drew lessons from developing strategies to battle my brothers in Starcraft or in terraforming Venus in SimEarth (tip, use a lot of ice meteors).
If I had to pick a starting five for games, behavior, and psychology, I’d pick the following.
Note: These are books I’ve read. There could be objectively better ones out there. One thing I love about reading is discovering great new texts and stories, so share in the comments what you’ve read that was amazing or helpful.
1. Theory of Games and Economic Behavior
John von Neumann was a beast of an intellect. So is this book. Co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern, it provides the gammut of intellectual thought and theory about games and economic behavior available when they wrote it.
2. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
Zimmerman and Salen do a fine (and playful) job of first defining, then exploring the building blocks of game design. I’d class it with Jesse Schell’s book on the same topic.
I had a chance to meet Katie Salen in person and she was pleased to know I’d delved into the work. She was giving a talk at Target in 2013 about cultural transitions. She offered some decent ideas about workplace gamification and designing environments that motivated the players to move to win states. Sound familiar?
One interesting point here was that this text was written in 2003. At that time, there wasn’t a theoretical framework for games within design. I thought Katie and Eric did a fine job (688 pages worth) of detailing this work.
I recommend this book to people who want a readable yet textbook-esque book to start their journey of understanding games and game design.
Particularly interesting is the following:
Building an aesthetics of interactive systems, Salen and Zimmerman define core concepts like “play,” “design,” and “interactivity.” They look at games through a series of eighteen “game design schemas,” or conceptual frameworks, including games as systems of emergence and information, as contexts for social play, as a storytelling medium, and as sites of cultural resistance.
Written for game scholars, game developers, and interactive designers, Rules of Play is equal parts a textbook, reference book, and theoretical guide. It is the first comprehensive attempt to establish a solid theoretical framework for the emerging discipline of game design.
3. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World–Jane McGonigal
I met Jane McGonigal in 2012 at a digital marketing conference in Minneapolis, MN, USA. She was very personable and asked me about my iPhone game. A good quick conversation before she went on stage for her keynote ahead of Guy Kawasaki. With a name like McGonigal, for a moment she almost made me feel like Harry entering wizard school (it definitely motivated me to complete the iPhone project).
Her book approaches a discussion of games from the premise that games can do good for the world. Especially if we design them appropriately.
I got the sense that McGonigal’s title, “Reality is Broken” was more of a headline hook than an actual representation of the book’s content. I instead found it to be a treatise for how games and play can improve individual health all the way to changing the way people interact and improve the world.
(As a side note, I also read McGonigal’s 500-page master’s thesis, entitled ‘Ubiquitious Play and Performance at the Turn of the 21st Century.)
Jane won’t give you too many direct examples to apply to your business unless you’re paying attention and applying the concepts to your everyday life.
4. The Art of Game Design–Jesse Schell
Jesse Schell’s book, by contrast to McGonigal’s, goes into depth about the totality of the experience. I liken his book to Norman’s Design of Everyday Things in that it describes the designer as a communicator through the game to the user. But also–and this is important for Octalysis apprentices–he hones in on the Experience of the game. In other words, he understands how experience motivates actions, mechanics, and decision-making within the game space.
5. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
When I slip into writing and two hours have gone by like two seconds, I know I’ve probably done some good work. What’s more, the experience of immersion, though fleeting in memory, is satisfying to accomplish. It also, it seems to me, to help my long-term productivity.
Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi wrote about unleashing creativity and investigated the satisfying feeling of complete immersion in an activity.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s illuminated “optimal experience”, a state of experience or consciousness he called Flow.
During flow, we typically experience a deep sense of enjoyment, creativity, and an involvement above normal experience. The idea is to reliably create the environment that will induce these states and remain in them for extended periods.
While his ideas have been controversial under scientific study, my own experience has suggested at minimum there is a level of focus and productivity that can be reached when distractions are removed.
Csikszentmihalyi discusses how to order the information entering our consciousness and we can discover true happiness and improve the quality of our lives.
This goes a little far in my view. True happiness is as of yet not measurable beyond self report, but I do know my general quality of life appreciates when I accomplish tasks, especially creative ones.
I recommend this book for anyone serious about understanding the creation of optimal experience in work and play.
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of reading, from blogs to books and everything in between.
Learning should be fun. However, this is not the experience of most kids in conventional schooling systems. Reading and math can be frustrating for a child who does not understand the underlying concepts or the larger picture of what they are learning. In many cases, students are structurally encouraged to just rote memorize information and simply go through the motions by following the school curriculum. Without establishing the right building blocks and foundations for comprehension and critical thinking, school can become even more daunting as courses become harder as the student rises through the grade levels.
However, by integrating imagination, creativity and game mechanics with the desired information, knowledge can come to life in meaningful ways. Compared to traditional grading systems, this offers a far more effective way to inspire the core drives of Core Drive #2, Accomplishment & Development as well as Core Drive #3, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.
Immersive game environments can incorporate visual, auditory, and tactile modes of exchanging information with players, which creates an interactive learning environment where engagement is key to success.
The rewards gained from feeling an internal sense of real achievement and having the ability to creatively solve and master challenges becomes far more meaningful in this type of learning environment.
And with games, it is also possible to effectively utilize other forms of motivation such as Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession and Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness to further enhance the experience of players and add a greater sense of personal meaning and significance to what they are learning.
Here are five examples of educational games that are transforming the way kids are now learning in school.
Most of you probably know of at least one family with a child on the autism spectrum. The current prevalence rate has been estimated to be about 1 in 68, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Because the range of symptoms varies so widely, it can be difficult to quickly describe what this condition is in a way that applies to all children on the spectrum (contrary to public perception, autism can be variously expressed in different people).
Generally, these children have speech and social deficits. Tantrums can be a common expression because they lack the communication skills to communicate their needs and feelings.
While some show extraordinary aptitudes in certain areas, many have trouble learning in the same way as their non-autistic peers. Therefore, teaching has to be highly specialized to accommodate the unique ways these children take in and process information. Proper educational tools and strategies can help these kids better integrate with social settings and even the world around them.
So how can Gamification help?
According to Natalie Webber, M.S, “The iPad has become a great tool when working with students on the autism spectrum because it gives them the ability to control a piece of their environment and an opportunity to communicate.”
The number of apps being developed for autism spectrum children has soared due to the high demand for such tools. Here are ten that are highly recommended.
In case you missed in, last month I was in Norway doing a speech for the University of Adger on Gamified Education.
Many of the slides you will find similar to my past presentations, but there are some twists and turns that fit better into the education aspect.
Also, my slides also dive into my content of Lifestyle Gamification, which would be the topic my second book “10,000 Hours of Play” focuses on.
Some Insights in Gamified Education
I actually think there are some great insights that came out when I was creating these slides, including how education shifts our intrinsic motivation to learn into extrinsic motivation to get the “acceptable grades” (which are different for everyone, how educators will likely become facilitators and cheerleaders instead of teachers in a world where students can get more information than what the educator knows faster than she can say it, and how education should reward students for who they are and how they are unique, instead of shame them for who they are not.
Creating exams that students are dying to take
One of the key things here, is that many educators believe there is a lot of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment in the current school and grades system. However, if that were the case, students would feel extremely excited when there will be an exam, because that would be a new opportunity to feel developed and accomplished!
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Students (even good students!) abhor tests and do it just because they have to. Very few people look forward to tests.
If we successfully gamify education, then “assessments” will be seen as an exciting opportunity for students to unlock new materials and skill-sets instead of always being a drag.