Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why our game is NOT "Gamification"

I talk about Mathbreakers all the time, and one of the most common responses I get is, "Oh, I get it -- it's gamification for math."


Gamification was popularized in the last few years by adding badges and points to otherwise dull tasks. According to Wikipedia, "Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context..."

"A non-game context..."

I shudder, because it makes me think of a boring math worksheet with badges or gold stars. Have you seen these? It looks like somebody lifted the "problems" section from the back of Chapter 3 and added colors to it. I guess you could consider this to be more fun than a plain, static worksheet .. but barely.

Mathbreakers is NOT gamification. It truly is a game in its own right. Remove mathematics from the equation, and it's just a game — casting spells, solving puzzles, avoiding or defeating enemies, and exploring a rich and colorful world. It just so happens that all the interactions are governed by strict mathematical rules.

Some people are surprised by my negative reaction to the word "gamification", since it is a buzz word in educational games. Either they don't understand what it means, or they can't conceive of a video game that is educational while still being fun in the traditional sense. Spread the word — gamification does NOT equal video games!

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