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That's Gamification: What It Is and Isn't!

Learning architect and gamification enthusiast Moe Ash joins me for a special two-part series on gamification. In this first episode we discuss what gamification is and isn't, and how it differs from game-based learning, game-based pedagogy, and serious games.

Connect with Moe on LinkedIn.

You can also catch him at Gamicon21V this year, where he will be presenting his gamified learning experience "The Oracle".


The following transcript has been auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:06

Okay, today, I am excited to have Moe Ash here with me. He is a learning architect and a gamification enthusiast. So he is here to sort of share some of his passion and insight about gamification, and go into a little bit more depth about about what that term means what it doesn't mean, and just kind of give some helpful tips and tricks. So I, in fact, in fact, you have so much to share that we were probably going to break this down into two separate episodes, which is also exciting, because I've never done that before. And I feel like it's a big moment. So thank you mo for joining me for this, you know, history making double parter of That's Awesome ID!

Moe Ash 0:52

Well, I'm happy to be part of history. If that is.

Leslie Early 0:58

Hey, I mean, it's the first right, every first counts.

Moe Ash 1:03

Awesome. Let's put it for the Books, then.

Leslie Early 1:05

Yeah, so um, so you are you You call yourself a gamification enthusiast and I have seen some of your, some of your posts some of your interest in this. So it seems like you really do you have spent a lot of time kind of studying this. So how did you become interested in gamification even to begin with?

Moe Ash 1:29

Um, well, let's just say that I, I never thought that it would be doing what I'm doing. Um, my, my aspiration, my end destination was to actually work for the UNDP I, I'm an ex, an ex un employee, I used to work in UNESCO. And I kind of stumbled upon learning and development. And I thought it would be a trainer, maybe an l&d consultant, no, that didn't work. It's instructional design. And I had an opportunity to work for a company that does their own board game simulations, we do it homegrown, we don't franchise we don't get it from anywhere else. We get it our way we do it. So I stumbled in it as a designer that would build a board games, business board games. And that's that's how that's how it started. I was I was approached that way for something new. And I got hooked. That's simply it.

Leslie Early 2:34

Yeah, and I mean, because it is, it's so fun. It's such a fun topic and area of study. So I guess the thing that I find interesting in our conversations that we had leading up to this to develop this episode is that you you've given, you have a lot of information about what gamification is, and what it isn't. And I think because we're in instructional design, you know, sometimes there's some confusion around this term, and what does it really mean? Because, you know, it could be confused with a lot of different things.

Moe Ash 3:12

True. Um, well, let's, let's kick it off. When we think about learning design, the first thing that we we consider is assessment or quizzes, or making sure that the learning is practical. And on these auspices, people start to think that maybe gamification is the same thing. Maybe gamification is another sort of assessment. And maybe gamification is just another in class activity. Or, like, as shallow as like, let's get give each and every person a balloon, and then they pop one another's balloon or look for the other person's balloon in this way, we're having a game. That's, that's not it, this is playing versus play. And playing is the act of entertainment and engagement, but without a specific purpose just for pure entertainment. And when we look at game game is actually a system we have specific inputs, we have specific outputs, we have players taking place inside of that system, and we have an artificial conflict. And that artificial conflict is is mainly where all the learning takes place. And the players are dictated by specific rules that they will be delimiting them or like telling them what to do and what not to do. Like a game like a board game of content, or like Ticket to Ride or all that we have a destination we have something specific that we want to go for. Or maybe because some people might not know the the the board games that I talked about, like monopoly. Mm hmm. We all play Monopoly. We know the end goal is the world's To be the guy with all the money. So, in a game, looking at it as a system, this is how we should approach it because learning experiences our systems, we turn our learners into the players, we put rules on how to do that specific skill, or how to acquire that specific piece of knowledge. And also, there's an artificial conflict of skill acquisition, and trying to learn something. And the end goal. Well, basically, it's a learning objective defined by well, whether you're using Robert meager, Bloom's Taxonomy Myers principle of Merrill's first principles of instruction come what may the theory, you're still following the system. So this is how we should look into gamification, that we are applying a set of strategies that will motivate the learners to reach that learning goal that we have started a whole our whole design upon. Now, if I may say something else, what about game based, so if this is a strategy, so what's gained based learning is learning and this is where we start to lose a lot of colleagues and we get into heated discussions of what this is and what it's not. Let's just say this is a virgin science, it's, it's still new. I know, we're talking to science that what has been going on for like, what, 20 years, this is still virgin, this is still new. So aim based. Simply, I'm going to tell you an example. There's this game called Varun, and you would act as Raven. Raven is basically a virus that goes and infects cells, and tries basically to infect the whole body. It's a very dim strategy game and very cynical. But you as a learner, you're learning what the virus thus, you're learning how to infect. You're learning where to go and what to do as a virus. The game taught you, the viruses lifecycle, it taught you what's happening from a biological perspective, it's a strategy game. So this is gonna be game based. The game taught you what you should do gamification, it's a strategy for a whole program. So I could play this game for a day, for an hour or two, but gamification, we're looking into the whole system altogether, where we motivate the learners to get to that specific learning objective. I hope that made sense.

Leslie Early 7:54

So you've talked about the difference between gamification and game based learning? So then I guess the question is, for me is how is this different from something like a serious game, because I know that this is also used in training for some things. I've I know that that much at least.

Moe Ash 8:14

Yeah, that's true. But we're talking about like flight simulations, we're talking work with the military can be considered serious games, we could talk about many things that have nothing to do with anything related to entertainment. A serious game is using game theory sometimes, or using algorithms and mechanics to apply specific processes. So it could be it could be something that NASA is trying to like put a drill on what to do, or I'm trying to apply specific piece of technology that could be through serious games. So in a game, and that format follows the same thing that we talked about prior, which is a system. So it's a serious system that has nothing to do with entertainment.

Leslie Early 9:08

And so it's more of a simulation, like a simulation of certain things that you need to learn, but like, it's not necessarily fun. I mean, maybe fun. And it's not necessarily a tool to motivate people to accomplish the task. It's just, this is a way of learning the task.

Moe Ash 9:32

You should check the series game conference and look at the names and the topics that are being discussed there. And you would know it has nothing to do with learning or entertainment, the way we see it.

Leslie Early 9:45


Moe Ash 9:47

I guess we talked about this before the serious game before it was some Nike did this campaign where Leslie will be running every day because that's Drill. That's, that's what she does for exercising, and she will be record recording how many kilometers or? Well, since it's us, it's how many miles. And I would run as well. And I would record my miles and then I'm going to put it, putting it on the website, and the website would start to put this battle of the sexes between both of us. So this is, has a bit of fun, but it's still a serious game as well. Because we were trying to tackle like, health and promoting people to do something that would be good for them. It was that was the point of the campaign itself. Mm hmm. Now, there are two other stuff, game based pedagogy. That will be the last one, and then gamification. So game based pedagogy, it's it's me, using a game for class management for pedigo. To run a class, so it's a game. It's the practice and process of teaching and training, using games from a teacher's perspective, not from a learner's perspective.

Leslie Early 11:10

So like, assigning points or rewards to certain behaviors or things in the classroom or something like that.

Moe Ash 11:19

In a way, because assigning points for a specific purpose. And those points are threatened together. We could be venturing into gamification. But if it's for pure teaching only for pure class management, we're talking game based pedagogy. So the only difference between both of them is, is are we using this as a mechanic. That's how we start to think gamification and game design.

Leslie Early 11:54

Okay, so more like in a classroom, if you're using an entire system of these game elements, then you're sort of leaning more towards gamification than if you were literally just playing a game at one time to help manage the classroom. Okay, I get it. Okay. Awesome. Well, then, I guess that leads me into, you know, as learning architects, instructional designers, elearning developers? Are there certain? Does it make sense to use gamification in certain contexts? Or, or is this something that you can incorporate in any sort of learning project?

Moe Ash 12:41

This is a question that I get by a lot of clients, that they come to me and they're like, we want to implement gamification. And I'll be like, Why? Why should I use that strategy? Oh, because it's fun. No, no, that's not the main thing. I'm not trying to gamify something, which is a lot of work to entertain people. If there is a specific learning objective, and it's lengthy, it's mundane. It's something that would dictate a lot of investment. And that's also a mechanic, there's something called an investment mechanic from the learner to reach a learning objective, I would start to consider in education. But if you're telling me I want to use a board game, because people would love having a board game, well play a game, just don't use a gamified system, just play a game, entertain the people do a team building, retreat. But don't say that you're coming to me for gamification. So would it suit any context in a way or another? I've seen a whole range of different types of programs using gamification. But it's not that it's not the content. It's the learning objectives that we're trying to achieve.

Leslie Early 13:59

So what would be an ideal sort of an ideal sort of situation in which you would think, oh, maybe gamification is is a good candidate for this experience?

Moe Ash 14:15

Well, that's a tough question. That's a tough question. Because if I sometimes I say, No, I lose business. But the thing is, I've been working with the African Union, for like, it's been a year and a half now. And I'm doing this program for them on on CBI on competency based interviews. And what we have noticed from our DNA, that people have problems with diversity and inclusion. People have problems with cognitive biases, and like hiring certain people from certain areas. Some people are not in sync from different domains. moments away from the full on aspect. That day should be there on the board of interviews with the HR representative or specialists come what may the name. So our antidote of gamification, if I may say, so was handling so many things subliminally and directly. One is for those people to see one another and interact one another and start to exchange ideas for means of collaboration among them, to, for people to appreciate each other's perspective, because I had people, I delivered that training in Ethiopia. So I had doctors, I had technology, people from technology, from accounting from HR from, I had people that were policy sitting in front of me, and some of them they don't know when or other day never worked with. So it was a way to bridge that means of perception. And also, to let them understand that in CBI, we're dealing with competency, so they were appreciating people's competencies, and they were starting to approach how us as an organization like, of that magnitude, like the African Union should work together and form a different type of culture. So our program was a simple cog in a full on development plan. And we were helping form a different cultural understanding. That's why we use gamification.

Leslie Early 16:36

Wow, yeah, that sounds like Yeah, because sometimes gamification can be very complex. And but games can handle and organize a high level of complexity. So it seems like a good a good mix there.

Moe Ash 16:54

I guess to wrap away from the learning objectives, right away from all of this and the learning objectives.

Leslie Early 17:03

I guess, to wrap up this first half of our discussion, what is what is one thing or it could be a resource, it could be, you know, an activity, what's something that listeners can do right now, to go improve their understanding of gamification principles?

Moe Ash 17:26

Um, I would say, you have to play games, not play games, for the sake of playing games. Sometimes I have to tell you this, I purchase games, not to play them. But to deconstruct them, to see how they work. To borrow some understanding of how this element works with that element. That's one thing. So games like a tan splendour ticket derives the minion flux, explores Exploding Kitten. Those are a lump sum of games that you can play online or you can play physically, but they have rich tapestry of mechanics. That's number one. Number two, read stories, read novels. Stories lend to you a system they just presented to you. And it's okay to take a storyline and build upon it. Last but not least, I would say there are specific people that you should look into their work, like your chi Chao, he has your callistus, a book called actionable behavior. And, obviously car cop, obviously. And his book, The field book in the field book, and the book has instructions. Both offer so much for the learners to go into, and be the kickoff.

Leslie Early 18:58

Yeah, that's a great place to start. Definitely. Okay, well, I think this is a good place for us to stop. And then when we get together again, next time, we will be talking about more about what goes into making a good game, and some other practical tips for anyone starting to get into gamification. So thank you so much mo and I will talk to you again soon. Thank you so much.

Moe Ash 19:25

It's my pleasure.

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