Gamification: Four Popular Elements of Game Mechanics

This is the last article in our three-part series on gamification. Read part 2 here, and part 1 here. As we mentioned in the previous article, gamification is about creating synergy between gaming and digital learning. Its aim is to create an experience that is not only conducive to learning but, an experience that maximises the opportunity to learn and improves engagement.

The creation of this synergy starts with analysing the content and the desired learning outcomes. What do you want your learners to learn and how would this best be put into a game? This challenging and incredibly in-depth process must be completed before the fun starts. It’s obviously a deeply contextual process and is difficult to unpack in this short article, so we’re focusing instead on the four popular game mechanics and their unique benefits to the learning experience.

Game mechanics

There are many game mechanics out there, and they range in applicability to learning solutions. We’ll look at the ones that we use most often here at TTRO.

Keeping score: Scoring the actions and the outcomes of challenges within a game is something that we use the most. There is a multitude of ways to do this; scoring can be a single instance per challenge, or the scores across various scoring challenges can be aggregated to produce a final score at the end of the game. Or further still, a leader board can be created outside of the game to compare the scores of a group of players against each other, creating a greater sense of competition and increasing the level of engagement across a group.

Mobility: This element relates strongly to the open-world concept in gaming, however, in digital learning solutions, a true open-world would require a very large amount of computational power and obviously, a great amount of technical development. But allowing players to make choices in where they go in the game is a scaled-down version of this. We consider the players’ mobility in the game. Exploration, the order of completing activities and the user’s ability to engage and interact with the people they meet in the game all relates to how ‘open’ the game is. Players might want to see the results of bad decisions, and how this would impact the game in a later stage. This requires planning a non-linear flow throughout the game.

Side quests: This is a combination of the first two points in this list, except for the fact that side quests are non-essential, yet reward-based. This will allow players to explore more content while given the experience of discovering something new or hidden in the game. These quests could be activated by interacting with certain objects in a scene or can even be hidden easter eggs.

Unlocking: As the game progresses, new locations and new elements become available or are ‘unlocked’ for the player. This emphasises a sense of progress throughout the game. It can also create a sense of competition, either with one’s own progress throughout the game or with other players, through the idea of ‘levelling up’.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of game mechanics, but these are the most popular ones we have noticed. These elements are incredibly valuable and effective when used as integral parts in a digital learning experience. They can assist in producing exceptional results through a learning strategy and prove that gamification should be taken advantage of in its fullest.


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