Can Gamification Make Us Learn?

Howdy folks,

2014-08-04-15-00-50.jpgtoday I want to share with you my latest insights about the question if gamification can make us learn. I was thinking about it again because my former lecturer told me that in her opinion, learning (especially in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)) does not need to be fun but to include top notch content.

First, for those of you who are not familiar to gamification: gamification is the application of game mechanics in non-game contexts, e.g. showing customers a leaderboard of the most-buying customers to motivate them to buy even more. So you might want to call gamification a manipulation thing using mechanics that make you feel good or try to do better in games.

The question now is, can we really be manipulated to learn something?

2013-10-11 10.45.46In my opinion, gamification can be a trigger for learning. The game-like style is likely to grab your attention and teach you a first few things in an easy way. This is supported by a good on-boarding design. On-boarding means that in the beginning, there is more help and less difficulty so that you can start smoothly and not just get scared and frustrated after the first minutes.

Gamification then can keep you for some time satisfying your curiosity to discover new things and to figure out how things work. You might enjoy yourself earning some points and achievements and making some progress.

But someday, things get boring and the question then is: What have you learned and what are the take-aways from the time spent on this gamified learning environment?

To be able to answer this question, we have to think about your original motivation why you spent this time and if your motivation changed during spending the time. In my opinion, you can only learn something in a healthy way if you are really caring about learning it. I define healthy learning as a sustainable learning which is achieved once the learner begins to ask questions and looks for answers to these questions – which leads to real engagement of the learner and application of the topic to learn.

2014-08-07-10-50-56.jpgSo if you just stumbled into the learning environment accidentally, looking for pleasure and left once pleasure became less and work became more, you might have learned a few things but they are very likely to fade away soon and you are likely to have not achieved a deep learning and understanding of the topic to learn. In short, little or no learning.

But if you came to the learning environment with questions to answer or developed an interest in the topic to learn in the learning environment, you are likely to take away much more – and maybe even stay longer or look for other learning environments.

So the point I want to make is that what matters first and most is not the design of the learning environment but your motivation to learn.

Which is the role of gamification then?

Redesign of a gamified Software Engineering course, ICL Kazan 2013(6)As stated above, gamification can be a trigger for learning. If the learner is motivated for learning (motivation is not the product of gamification!), the elements of gamification can be a great way to provide the learner with a lot of intuitive learning management tools. Think of a map which shows you the topics you could still move to. A skill tree which shows you which skills you’ve already learned and what you might want or need to work on. A quest you can give to someone so that he/she explains something to you or works on a topic you are interested in. Earning experience points for learning success and getting level-ups to find and peer with other persons of similar levels. All the tracking of your learning and the management of the topics to cover, the possibilities to work on and the communication with other persons can be enhanced and facilitated by gamification techniques so that you can spend more time on the thing you care for – learning something you are really interested in.

2014-08-08-11-44-19.jpgFinally, to answer my starting question: gamification can not make us learn in a healthy way if we are only looking for pleasure. And a last side note: It is somewhat ironic that a society which is pleasure-centered tries to cure the problems of their pleasure-centeredness (that people care more about earning money to buy more pleasure than to learn more to make the world a better place), that this pleasure-centered society is trying to cure their pleasure-centeredness problem with making learning more pleasure…

I am looking forward to learn what you think.

Have a great weekend,



For Those Who Want To Read My Paper – Redesign of a Gamified Software Engineering Course

Accumulative grading in my redesigned course

Accumulative grading in my redesigned course

Howdy folks,

if you want to read my paper with which I won the Young Scientist Award 2013, feel free to do so here.

Comments and like are very appreciated.

May peace surround you and be happiness your friend.

Yours sincerely,


Russia – Here We Come

English: All Religions Temple. A building and ...

English: All Religions Temple. A building and cultural center build by the local artist Ildar Xanov. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Howdy folks,

In about seven hours, my flight is leaving Germany for Russia and after changing the flight in Moscow, we will finally arrive at Kasan, Russia. Why? Well, I won the Young Scientist Award for the ICL Conference 2013 with a paper called “Redesign of a gamified Software Engineering Course”. So I get the opportunity to stay four days in Russia and present my paper for 20 minutes plus attending to a lot of presentations. You might want to read a bit more about this here.

I will keep you posted how I am doing and will upload my paper and maybe even a video of my presentation (I think someone will record it, the only question is when I get it) for you as soon as I am home again.

May peace surround you and be happiness your friend.

Yours sincerely,


P.S.: Make sure to join my Remember Happiness Today series – a question per day to think of happy times – here.

P.S.2: Yesterday was my “best day ever” with 72 visits on my blog. I am happy and want to say thank you thank you thank you to you all, I am so glad you are here and am looking forward to our interaction.

P.S.3: If you wondered about the “We” in the title – my lecturer who is also co-author of my paper will come with me which I am very grateful for.

Lessons learned from reading “Loyalty 3.0” by Rajat Paharia

Howdy folks,

Rajat Paharia, Bunchball

Rajat Paharia, Bunchball (Photo credit: E2 Conference)

today I want to tell you what I learned from reading “Loyalty 3.0” by Rajat Paharia.

  • There are rather algorithmical tasks, e.g. making pizza in a pizza restaurant is like you have a template how the pizza should look like and what you have got to do to get there. For these rather algorithmical tasks, there is a lack of intrinsical motivation so you have to motivate extrinsically, e.g. with points and levelling up and relating the level to the salary.
  • There are rather heuristical tasks (you might say creative tasks), e.g. designing a user interface or doing research and innovate car engineering. For these rather heuristical tasks, there is often intrinsical motivation already existing or can be created by a bit of gamification, so there is only a need for support like feedback.
  • Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation do not have clear cuts, if an activity results from extrinsic or intrinsic motivation depends on somebody’s reasons for doing it. We can rather think of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation as the opposed ends of a gradient scale/spectrum.
  • On the way to happier and therefore more productive employees some enterprises implement result only work environments or even complete autonomy for employees.
  • When people lack autonomy in one activity, they strive for autonomy in another activity, e.g. if work is boring and without autonomy, people escape by playing games.
  • Rajat gives us a great example of Tom Sawyer to show that it depends mostly on someone’s attitude if something feels like work or like a game. So gamification can change the perception of an activity and makes it feel less like work.
  • There are fixed mind-set and growth mind-set persons (Tagg calls them entity and incremental theorists): Fixed mind-set persons do not believe they can improve and change their skills and growth mind-set persons believe in and work hard to improve their skills.
  • Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

    Image via CrunchBase

    I loved the Steve Jobs quote “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?” in combination with Rajat’s thoughts about Wikipedia: “People often wonder why others dedicate their time and energy to efforts such as contributing to open-source projects and writing and editing on Wikipedia for no financial gain. Now you know the answer – because there is a strong sense of purpose, of making a dent in the universe.”. Makes me think of meaningful activities… Rajat also introduces research by Amabile and Kramer about this issue.

  • A like on Facebook does not mean a company has a social relationship to the customer who pushed the like button. Real engagement on both sides is needed to create a social relationship that lasts.
  • Rajat explains the most important details about big data and big data analysis in brief and nice-to-read paragraphs with examples, thanks for telling me so that I could learn it in this enjoyable way!
  • Loyalty 3.0 can be used to implement my thoughts about building trust in your team.
  • “Don’t let the game in the name fool you.”: Gamification does not make work a game but uses game elements to make work more enjoyable, meaningful and productive if done right.
  • Khan Academy

    Khan Academy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Did you know the Khan Academy?

  • Gamification does not make a poor product a great product, for its success there needs to be a product with a core value proposition. Reminds me of my thoughts about sustainable gamification
  • Fun and positive emotions in games come from the path to the win: Autonomy, mastery, purpose, a feeling of progress and social interaction makes us happy and make the game a meaningful activity.
  • Check out Rajat’s explanation of the ten most important gamification mechanics!
  • We should suggest a next action to the user.
  • We should use personal leaderboards where the user can compete with friends or just see his position and some before and after so that he/she know what to do to get from 1001th to 999th position.
  • There are different kinds of extrinsic motivation which are more or less far away from intrinsic motivation: external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation and integrated regulation.
  • English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot a...

    English: Autonomy Mastery Purpose vs. Carrot and Stick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Cash is not the only meaningful reward.

  • Always work with teams because if someone feels responsible for his/her team mates, he/she will try everything to perform better.
  • Gamification can provide you with the steering wheel for your employees.
  • Loved the Thomas A. Edison quote “Vision without execution is hallucination.”.
  • Gamification can be used to improve software testing participation and intensivity, case study: “Thwack“.
  • Scaffolding and Onboarding are important gamification techniques, e.g. at Zamzee where families can get and stay fit.
  • Ever got frustrated using Photoshop? Try LevelUp, a gamified Photoshop training!
  • If a game designer designed the school experience most of us had, it would have been the worst game ever.
  • Have to check out “The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game“.
  • Another example of successful gamification of education: “Just Press Play“.
  • I will try the amazing third part of the book (guide for implementation of Loyalty 3.0) for my favorite future fashion store soon.

Hope you learned something, too and want to learn more now (buying Rajat’s amazing book ;)).

I am looking forward to read your comments, e.g. about where you could implement Loyalty 3.0, where do you feel a need for more feedback or purpose, if you do know any of the case studies and whatever comes into your mind. Thanks in advance for becoming a brave one 🙂


Building trust in your team (Gamification of work)

At your service poll result (July 13, 2013)

At your service poll result (July 13, 2013)

Howdy Folks!

How are you? Has been a long and exciting week for me, especially because an article about me winning the trip to the IGIP conference in Russia has been published this week in the local news. I described how I came to wining the trip in my last post.

Today, I want to tell you something about “Building trust in your team (gamification of work)” as you voted in my customer service poll (see image at the right).

One important thought first: Avoid blaming the others, especially blaming a whole department for delaying your work. Blaming the others (and especially blaming a “anonymous” group of persons, e.g. a department) bins the fault in a problem stack that is never solved or even recognized to exist. If you catch yourself blaming someone, think about why you blame the person(s) and how to change yourself and to communicate with the person(s) to solve the problem. This way, work will be much more fun because you will realize how things can be done much more faster if you work as a real team in a real enterprise (instead of fighting each against others).

But how to gamify your work?

In my opinion, many issue tracker (e.g. JIRA) and ticket systems (e.g. iET) are already like role playing games. You get tasks (“quests”) to complete and you have a role (e.g. “1st Level Support Employee” or “Java Application Developer”). But why do these tools annoy us so often?

Adult Ralph in Bart to the Future, annoyed at ...

Annoyed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, they lead us to simply completing the tasks without listening to our inner goals and motivation. Changing this is simply a question of personal philosophy but can be supported by gamification (see “Working on your personal goals” below). Secondly, these tools are often full of features and have a rather poor design which results in a bad user experience, so it is already feeling like work to use the tools (see “Some thoughts about user experience” below). Finally, these tools tend to isolate us in our workplace which is a bit related to “Working on you personal goals” but can additionally changed by gamification (see “How to make your workplace become more social” below).

Working on your personal goals

A simplified example of a skill tree, a common element of role-playing games. (credit:

A simplified example of a skill tree, a common element of role-playing games. (credit:

Think of a skill tree in role playing games (see image at the right). What if you had this skill tree in your daily work and could level up by completing tasks to get skill points? With this skill points, you could go to workshops and coaching to improve a special skill you find important to improve. Additionally, you can create tasks and watch them get completed and give the person who completed your task particularly well an additional experience points bonus.  What do you think about it? I think we don’t need to talk about the fact that simply giving points for something with no related meaning is never leading to anything…

Some thoughts about user experience

Good games are very easy to play and get more and more complicated with you getting better so they always are neither boring nor annoyingly complex to play. If you think of user interfaces of business tools, you wish sometimes it would be similar. As a beginner, you need more help (guidance and feedback) and less possibilities. As an expert, you need more possibilities and less help. So a good user interface adapts to the skill level of its user. This can be done by an intelligent enterprise role management giving beginners less roles (and therefore less complexity in the user interface). The tool needs a good tooltip and on-demand (shortcut) context help function. Help and tips can appear automatically based on your skill level, so a beginner gets more help and tips than an expert.

How to make your workplace become more social

Bazar Bizar 2010 @Rotterdam

Bazar Bizar 2010 @Rotterdam (Photo credit: wot nxt)

In times of tools and computers, it is important to create space to meet up with other people. This can happen both in real life and in virtual life. I think of “Marketplaces” for working together and sharing or trading your tasks and of “Lounges” to communicate with people who do the same work or have the same interests.

English: Jack Daniels Lounge

Lounge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Therefore, augmented reality could be really helpful to navigate you inhouse (e.g. for meeting a working mate in another office), showing the status of your working mates (e.g. “Struggling hard with that damn satisfaction calculation method” -> you decide to help your working mate) and to synchronise the communication and actions between reality and virtual reality. Therefore, a tool like a “DocuBuddy” could be quite helpful. I imagine that I’m talking with a working mate about how we’re gonna implement a particular function and we have a great idea. I say “DocuBuddy, please note” and then “DocuBuddy” writes down what I say and adds it to the corresponding task.

Building trust in your team

Finally, the trust in your team will result from a skillfull, improving team that helps each other, shares work and ideas with each other and consists of self-concident and rather happy (inner motivated) people. Getting both recognition for working and a feeling for personal progress will shorten the (felt) time to retirement very much…

So what do you think? What are your ideas how one could change your work to become a better activity you’d love to do?

May the force be with you,



Failure and what I learned from failing – A course re-redesign

Howdy folks,

Today, I want to introduce myself as someone who tried educational gamification and failed. And as someone who read the amazing book “Learning Paradigm College” by John Tagg and was much influenced by Tagg’s thoughts. But let’s begin with the beginning…

English: University of Cooperative Education (...

Duale Hochschule Karlsruhe/University of Cooperative Education Karlsruhe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my studies (Applied Computer Science), I wrote two 30 page papers (called “Studienarbeit”). Both are about redesigning the 1 year-long (2 semester) Software Engineering (SE) course in the Bachelor program for Applied Computer Science at the Duale Hochschule of Karlsruhe (DH).

The first one is about gamifying this SE course.

Most important ideas were:

  • Using a Map (see image below) where students could choose their way through the material (autonomy).
  • Providing students with a profile with a progress bar (feedback).
  • Giving Experience Points (XP) for completing tasks.
  • A Marketplace for creating and joining projects for the second semester.
Map providing students with autonomy to choose their way through the learning material

Map providing students with autonomy to choose their way through the learning material

Problems with this course design encountered in collected student feedback were:

  • Early release of the prototype had as a consequence that students were likely to find it buggy and feeling like guinea pigs (subjects of experiments).
  • The course design had too little focus on grades for a grade-centered environment like the DH.
  • Games seem to have a connotation as inefficient and not having the same value as work (sounding a bit like “Man, I’m serious and hard working, not just playing around!”).

So feeling quite frustrated, I said to myself “If you want hard work, you get hard work and if I only get you hard working by regular grading, let’s have a try!”.

This led to the second paper about implementing a Flipped Classroom for SE course:

Most important ideas were:

  • Diverse kind of tasks for students to avoid “reproduction-only” tests and increase learning efficiency (see image “student activity over lecture time (minutes)”).
Student activity over lecture time (minutes)

Student activity over lecture time (minutes)

  • Team work from the beginning to facilitate students keeping motivated and moving.
  • Regular grading and feedback for students on almost every task (see image “Possible points (sum) over lecture number”).

    Possible points (sum) over lecture number

    Possible points (sum) over lecture number

This design will be used in the next SE course starting in October 13. I’m already excited about how it will be perceived and rated by the students. I hope that the regular grading will avoid that students do not take the course serious just because it feels less like a lecture they are used to. After reading John Tagg’s amazing book, I thought that if we add enough feedback to every grade so that students can get better and better, it could heat up the learning environment a lot.

Do you have any ideas or comments to share on one of the papers? Or do you have any questions about one of the papers? Waiting for it in the comment section!

By the way, I wrote a shorter paper about the second paper and won a trip to Russia in September 2013 to participate in the IGIP conference. I’m looking forward to that adventure…

Have anyone ever been to Russia? Would be great if you shared your experiences with me!

I will write about the Russia trip and the conference and the Flipped Classroom for SE course after my conference participation. So if you already have questions concerning one of this three topics, let me know! Thanks in advance!

Sustainable gamification

Howdy, folks!

Sustainable gamifcation

Poll result “You suggest, you vote, I write about…” 29.06.2013

Been away for a long time and I’m sorry for it. But a lot has happened during this time. My initial favor of gamification changed to a critical view of points and leaderboards and I’ve realized that life is so much more than some marketing guys want to make us believe.

But enough of this now, as you voted for “Sustainable gamification” as the next post, I want to tell you what I think about it now.

Sustainable gamification
The ugly truth first, it depends on you if gamification is sustainable! Gamification is probably not sustainable if you

  • aim for quick wins instead of long-term customer satisfaction
  • have no idea what to do but want to have that cool gamification thingy into your app/store/whatever
  • think that people can be manipulated and controlled for a longer time by gamification
  • have products that are not good enough and you need advertising to sell enough of them and see gamification as a kind of marketing

So how becomes gamification sustainable?
Easy question to answer now we know when it is probably not sustainable! Gamification is probably sustainable if you

  • aim for long-term customer satisfaction and take quick wins only as a nice add-on on your path to success
  • have a clear idea why and how you want to implement gamification into your business
  • acknowledge that people can only manipulated for some time against their inner values and therefore, you try to help them to follow their inner values by giving them small and defined motivation kicks in their sometimes lazy a.s.s.
  • have products that help people to satisfy their wishes and allow them to follow their inner values

Or if you like it more visually:

Factors for sustainable gamification

Factors for sustainable gamification

One thing needs to be said before this blog entry can be completed: Gamification is this way only an additional ingredient for your success. Hope you can use it being in the green range of all the four gauges above.

And if you struggle hard implementing gamification, check your inner values or your business’ inner values. If you have any questions, please comment on this blog entry or join me on twitter or facebook.

I’m looking forward to your questions and comments!

And don’t forget to vote for the next blog entry!

Survived for two weeks or Let gamification die

Hello everyone, hello especially to these very important people that already found, liked, followed or even commented on my blog!
This is a quick post to thank you and to tell you about my service philosophy:

  • You can suggest and vote for new topics to post at the right side (sidebar).

    English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting

    English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • I will write a post every or every second week about the most voted topic.
  • You can present yourself at my  Service Optimization – Follower Interests site.
  • I will try to post the best content for my readership presented on this site.
  • You can comment on my blog 24/7.
  • I will try to reply within one day and will check your blog or website out too, if you want me to (I often suggest you want me to).

This way, with your help, I hope my blog will survive more than the next two weeks. But if you like to see things dying…

Let gamification die!

You might wonder why I say such rude things to poor little gamification, do you?

  • the word gamification makes many people think of manipulation so you can’t have a serious, constructive discussion with them. Kill gamification!
  • the word gamification makes many people think of games which they think of as childish stuff so there is no discussion. Die gamification!

    Star Wars - Darth Vader

    Star Wars – Darth Vader (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • the word gamification sounds like marketing or research term, so most of the people think that they are not allowed and not even necessary to think about or even have an opinion about it. That’s completely bullshit! The question how we can give and take feedback, learn continuously new things and master motivation to live a good, joyful life might concern everyone maybe expect little Darth Vader. Die, gamification, die!!!

So I hope you agree we need to find a better term to describe what we try to achieve by gamific… (arghhh, I can’t write it anymore without thinking of rude, bloody things). Do you have any ideas about the wording? What do you understand as its aims, its techniques? What is it (don’t want to think of bloody things anymore) for you?

Sweetheart made by bm199

Sweetheart made by bm199 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe we can baptize poor little gamification a second time so that it is our sweetest sweetheart?

Use the force,


Gamification: The Art of Attracting and Keeping Users

Hey folks,

just wanted to let you know about some great writing I just found. It will tell you what your main questions should be when implementing gamification. What I find very interesting and most important is

Focus the Scope of Rewards

[…] Context is vital to gamification — consider rewarding activities in narrowly scoped areas to give developers something concrete and achievable to strive for.


Implement Wisely

Before you implement your gamification system, think carefully about how it will scale and take future needs into account.

Thx @Engaming for sharing another cool article!

via Gamification: The Art of Attracting and Keeping Users.

Gamify later or Why Gamification needs to be rethought

A powerful light shines in the dark.

A powerful light shines in the dark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you still remember that little Dishwasher game I wanted to let my work mates play? For those who don’t. Well, you remember, my boss interrupted at the mention of gamification so we couldn’t play. I had a great and long discussion with him this week and I can tell you: Gamification needs to be rethought. You might wonder if I’m being a bit too rude to sweet innocent gamification now but let’s take the popular example of Foursquare:

They just gave their players points and badges for checking in and had leaderboards (“The Mayor“) for every place. But after a several time, players quit. Do you know why?

They now changed the design completely and I think they are getting one step closer to the light side now. You can read the whole story here.

So if you already read my page “The light side” and maybe even the short Foursquare story, we can start to think about the new, sustainable gamification. I want to develop such a light side application called gamma. Gamma stands for gamified non-manipulative mmorpg-like application. So what does that mean?

  • Gamified because it uses game elements to support players by providing immediate feedback and a skill board to
    Gamma - The light side of Gamification

    Gamma – The light side of Gamification

    see where they stand.

  • Non-manipulative because players are intelligent enough to discover real manipulation and will oppose against it as I do against using manipulation techniques. The application will provide information and allow players to communicate so that they can make a decision together instead of getting a decision.
  • Mmorpg-like because I was inspired by Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games to develop an application which allows players to create quests and accept quests (or tasks) to get experience points and skill points to know where they stand and what they want to achieve.
  • Application because it will be a piece of software that enables the players to enjoy the light side.

So much for now, I will come back to gamma in a later post.

Now I still want to discuss an interesting point Joe Cool (btw the first commentator on my first post, you are a brave one, thx!) made yesterday:

Our whole life is about influencing, or if you want to coin it in a negative way, it is about manipulating

(Joe Cool, July 5, 2012, comment)

I replied to him that we need to differentiate between 1) giving arguments plus the chance to make a decision AND 2) “giving” a decision. 2) is manipulative without doubt. 1) is what we call in my company the “way of making a commonly accepted decision”. The idea is that everybody tells why he or she wants to do something and given all this motivation, you can make the right choice. Sometimes it takes a bit longer but well, at least most times results are quite profoundly thought-over.

Pirates thumb

Pirates thumb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think to be clear about where discussion ends and manipulation starts is a very essential point also for gamification. In my oppinion manipulation starts if you decide to keep knowledge private to avoid getting a possibility killed (e.g. telling the world you only need 100k € to get back on your feet and not telling that you already bought a one-way flight to a little island in the Caraiban).

Thx for reading, I appreciate your comments very much!

May the force be with you…