In part three of four in this gamification of learning blog mini-series we’re going to cover the types of game format that can be used within an educational context. All of these will likely be familiar to you in another context, but here we’ll give useful examples and type them to an educational context. So let’s get going!

Missed parts 1 & 2? – Get a reminder here; Part 1 | Part 2

Race games

This format will be familiar to many from computer games such as Mario Kart or even the board game Snakes and Ladders, where competitors race to be the first to a finish line. There is even a race component in the last week’s example of Monopoly – although there is no set finish line, players are incentivised to move around the board as they receive money each time they pass the starting point. In a learning environment a race format can be used as learners race to get to the top of a leaderboard, or answer questions as they move across a board to reach the other side.

 Collect to win

This dynamic is where players collect or acquire pieces while playing the game, whereby either the player who collects the most pieces is the winner, or the pieces give the player an advantage along the way to achieving another objective. An example of a collect to win game is Pokémon or even a football sticker book. Even games such as the original Mario games have an element of collect to win as collecting coins gives a player an advantage in the form of additional lives. Collect to win can be used effectively in an educational setting by setting up a scenario where players have to collect pieces of information in order to answer a larger question or uncover a mystery. This complements the competence element of self-determination theory of motivation as each piece of the puzzle that a learner uncovers serves as its own miniature reward.

Mystery and discover

Cluedo is a great example of a game based around mystery and discovery. Players have to move around the board uncovering clues in order to solve a fictitious crime. Mystery and discovery games motivate players as humans do not like open loops or unanswered questions. Players are therefore motivated to play the game and uncover the information needed to close the loop and solve the mystery.

Consider trying to create intrigue from the very start of the game. An example of this could be instead of setting out the learning objective as learning to apply long division, the objective could be “Can you apply long division?” or “The long story of division”, depending on your audience.

Strategy games

Strategy games have seen a recent surge in popularity with games such as Grepolis and Clash of Clans available on mobile. In these games players build cities and use strategy and collaboration with other players to turn these cities into empires within the game. Probably the oldest and most well-known strategy game is chess. In chess players have to protect their king whilst simultaneously attacking the other player’s pieces, always having to think a number of moves ahead.

Integrating strategy into learning situations is more difficult than integrating dynamics such as a race or collect to win. However, there are a number of things you can do in order to add strategy elements to a game:
Include opportunities for players to trade game elements either with each other or with a game master (e.g. the Banker in Monopoly)

  • Reveal information slowly
  • Reward unique solutions to the game
  • Reward learners for predicting outcomes of other players or the game itself
  • Construction and creation

The beautifully simple Mine Craft is currently by far the most popular construction and creation game. Players use cuboid blocks to build whatever they wish within a 3D environment. Mine Craft’s popularity comes from the way it facilitates players’ creativity. Players have built anything from a simple house, to replicas of spaceships and even scale versions of the Taj Mahal; all made one block at a time by players simply to express their creativity.

The construction dynamic can be an effective tool for teaching geometric shapes or could be combined with a reward structure, whereby a series of smaller rewards can be combined together to build something larger that the player would like, in order to add an extrinsic incentive to the learning process. People often like the opportunity to share and show-off what they’ve built. This can work well to add a social element and motivate learners to discuss the learning process.

Additional dynamics

This is not an exhaustive list of every type of game dynamic. Additional dynamics such as pattern recognition, as well as off-shoots of those mentioned above such as the escape or allocation dynamics also exist and can be useful in the gamification of learning.
Now you have a list of game formats to apply to your class why not give gamification a try? Next week in the final instalment of the mini-series we’ll look at some of the elements that can be integrated across formats and really make gamification an essential teaching tool for you to have in your educator’s tool box.

Don’t want to wait until next week? Download the full Gamification of Learning eBook here.