In The 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.

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.

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 for attending special events.

1978 – The Birth of Social Video Games

Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle develop 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, two articles that outlined what could be learned from computer games and applied to other areas.

1996 – Game players are categorized

Richard Bartle (MUD1 developer) defines 4 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 – ‘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.”

No, gamification can’t rescue a poorly designed instructional sequence or drivel-filled curriculum. But done properly, it has tremendous potential, something we plan on looking more at in the near future.