This weekend, I noticed a few items for which the term of gamification could have been applied. First, the word as I understand it:

GAMIFICATION: Using elements of games, such as point-scoring, competition, and rules, that are applied to non-game activities.

So, let’s play!

Last week, as I was preparing my classes, one of the orientation sessions was one for WeBWorK, the online homework system that my students will use. One of the optional features is “Achievements.”

As it turns out, “Achievements” is a term in gamification theory for those little trophies which  don’t do anything, but let you know that you’ve made progress in the game.

WordPress is full of Achievements, like the anniversary badges, the awards for having a certain number of followers or likes, and of course, blogger-generated awards. However, the Trophy Case which used to host the WP-created achievements seems to have vanished. Too bad–I was going to use one of my Anniversary badges as the feature photo for this post!

And another thing that appears full-force in the gamified WordPress: site stats! It’s a game to see how many hits you can get on your site, where your stats are the same thing as your score, and there is the Rat Race implied by the “Get more followers! Get more readers! Follow me back!”

So, I also noticed a few gamified items last weekend, and one of those was in my car.

By that, I’m referring to the Average Miles Per Gallon display. The game of improving the average fuel economy can sometimes lead to erratic driving, however. It is an extrinsic motivation for something that I am already intrinsically motivated to do. Because I want to save both money as well as reduce my carbon footprint. (Good news: I am planning to only rarely drive my car intra-Menomonie, unless I have a large or awkward shopping trip.)

And another game I was playing on my drive to Chicago: Beat the Clock! I used both my car’s built-in timer, as well as my watch to play this game.

Gamification also appears via exercise equipment. The amount of strides you’ve taken on an elliptical, the miles you’ve traversed on a bike, the number of steps that you have taken on a FitBit or a traditional pedometer, and all sorts of other stats can appear.

Of course, the FitBit includes the gamification inherent with its connection to social media.

I think that gamification has both its positives and negatives. It really does shift motivation from intrinsic to extrinsic, which will be effective for some people but not for others. Furthermore, I think it is important to realize that not every “good” action will deserve or attain a reward, but should be done for its own sake.

What other parts of your life have been gamified?


Rosh Hashanah: 4 days.

Memorial Stadium: 44 days.

Joint Mathematical Meetings: 118 days.

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