A Brief History Of Gamification In Education

by TeachThought Staff

Changes And Improvements: How Gamification Has Changed [Updated]

How has gamification changed in the last 50 years? A few of the more important changes include:

Proliferation of Gamification Platforms

Over the past two and a half decades, there has been a significant increase in the availability and accessibility of gamification platforms. Companies and developers now have access to various tools and frameworks that enable them to integrate game elements into non-gaming contexts, such as education, marketing, and employee engagement.

This proliferation has democratized the implementation of gamification, making it easier for organizations to adopt and experiment with game-inspired techniques.

Data-Driven Gamification

One of the significant advancements in gamification is the emphasis on data-driven approaches. With the rise of analytics and big data, gamification strategies have become more sophisticated, leveraging user data to personalize experiences and optimize engagement. This shift has allowed organizations to measure the effectiveness of their gamification efforts, identify successful elements, and iterate on their designs based on real-time feedback.

Behavioral Psychology Integration

The understanding of behavioral psychology principles has played a crucial role in shaping the evolution of gamification. Designers now incorporate rewards, feedback loops, and intrinsic motivation into gamified systems. This integration has enhanced user engagement and contributed to developing more ethical and user-centered gamification practices.

Mobile Gamification and App Integration

The advent of smartphones and mobile technology has significantly impacted gamification. Mobile apps and games have become pervasive, allowing gamified experiences to seamlessly integrate into users’ daily lives. Whether it’s fitness apps that reward users for achieving exercise goals or educational apps that incorporate game-like features for learning, mobile gamification has transformed how individuals interact with technology and pursue personal development.

Gamification in Learning and Development

In the last 25 years, there has been a notable surge in the use of gamification in educational and professional settings. From e-learning platforms to corporate training programs, gamification has proven effective in enhancing engagement and knowledge retention. Applying game elements, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, has turned learning into a more immersive and enjoyable experience, appealing to a wide range of learners across different age groups and industries.

A Brief History Of Gamification In Education

According to Wikipedia, a study at MIT Sloan found that “ideation games helped participants generate more and better ideas, and compared it to gauging the influence of academic papers by the numbers of citations received in subsequent research and that the “term ‘gamification’ first gained widespread usage in 2010, in a more specific sense referring to incorporation of social/reward aspects of games into software.

Growth Engineering has a nice overview of the history of gamification, which we’ve excerpted below.

A Brief History Of Gamification

1908: The Boy Scout movement is founded

The Boy Scouts awarded members with badges to recognize their achievements. Scouts could earn badges for becoming proficient in an activity, acting according to the principles of the organization, and attending special events.

1978: The Birth of Social Video Games

Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle developed MUD1, the first Multi-user Dungeon game. Though its text-based interface was unimpressive by today’s standards, it lit the fuse for the explosion of social online gaming.

1982: Academics recognize the potential of gaming

With computer games demonstrating inherent abilities to engage users, articles start to appear exploring possible uses. In 1981, Thomas W. Malone released Toward a Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction and Heuristics for Designing Enjoyable User Interfaces. These two articles outlined what could be learned from computer games and applied to other areas.

Note, there is a Difference Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning. Terry Heick said, “The definition of gamification is the application of game-like mechanics to non-game entities to encourage a specific behavior.”

Through the application of game-like mechanics (XP, turns, leaderboards) to non-game entities (discussions, exams, project-based learning), learning nuance can be exposed (an idea we recently explored), results communicated, and various learner profiles and abilities honored.

1996: Game players are categorized

Richard Bartle (MUD1 developer) defines four gamer types based on how different people approach playing a game. This model would go on to become a cornerstone of many gamification initiatives.

2002: The modern concept of ‘Gamification’ is born

While designing a game-like user interface for commercial electronic devices (ATMs, vending machines, mobile phones) Nick Pelling coins the ‘deliberately ugly’ word, gamification. With a name, the history of gamification truly begins.

Also this year, The Serious Gaming Initiative (a project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) is founded.”

Here are four important milestones in the field of gamification over the last 25 years:

Late 1990s–Early 2000s: The Emergence of Loyalty Programs

One of the earliest milestones in gamification can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s with businesses’ widespread adoption of loyalty programs. Companies began incorporating point systems, rewards, and tiered structures to encourage customer loyalty. This marked a pivotal moment in gamification as it demonstrated the effectiveness of using game-like elements to influence and retain user behavior outside traditional gaming contexts.

Mid-2000s: Introduction of Badge Systems and Social Gamification

In the mid-2000s, badges as a form of virtual achievement gained prominence with platforms like Foursquare. Users were awarded badges for specific activities, such as checking in at different locations. This marked a shift towards social gamification, where individuals could showcase their achievements to their social networks. The success of badge systems contributed to the development of broader gamification strategies that focused on building communities and fostering social interactions.

2010s: The Rise of Gamification in Education

The 2010s saw a significant milestone in the integration of gamification into education. Platforms like Kahoot! and Classcraft gained popularity by incorporating game mechanics into the learning process. Gamification in education proved to be a powerful tool for enhancing student engagement, participation, and motivation. This milestone highlighted the versatility of gamification beyond the corporate and marketing realms, demonstrating its potential to positively impact learning outcomes.

2010s – Present: Continued Development of Gamification Platforms and Tools

Over the last decade, the development and widespread availability of gamification platforms and tools have been crucial milestones. Platforms like Badgeville, Bunchball, and others emerged, providing businesses and organizations with scalable solutions to implement gamification strategies.

These platforms offer a range of features, from points and badges to leaderboards and analytics, making it easier for diverse industries to integrate gamified elements into their products, services, and processes. This accessibility has played a vital role in the continued growth and adoption of gamification across various sectors.