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Gamification, Education and E-learning: An interview with Andrzej Marczewski

By Aras Bozkurt / September 2017

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Who is Andrzej Marczewski?
I'm senior solution consultant at Motivait, focusing on gamification and game based solutions. I have been involved in gamification since 2011, written a book or two on the subject (Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play) as well as been co-author on several peer reviewed papers on gamification player types and mechanics. In 2016, I was even lucky enough to be awarded the "Greatest Contribution to Gamification" by Gamification World Congress. Outside of that, I was a web developer for 15 years as well as an educational designer. I play video games, guitar and have two kids-that pretty much sums up my spare time!

Why gamification? Why now?
Gamification has been in my life for many years now. As I said in the intro, I have been professionally involved since about 2011, but really I have been using similar design principles—using games or game based concepts to solve problems—since at least 2000. Before that, I have always been a gamer. Games are in my DNA I think, so it was a natural fit!

What is your definition for gamification? What is gamification and what is not?
My official definition is "the use of game design metaphors to create more game-like and engaging experiences." Gamification is the process of improving systems and people's experiences using lessons, techniques, and elements taken from games.

If you look at it from a semantic perspective, gamification is definitely not about making games! However, I prefer to be a little more open minded and say that gamification is part of a suite of game based solutions that I refer to as "game thinking." This includes games, serious games, simulation, gamification, and playful design.

How does gamification impact eLearning?
Games are about learning. Learning new skills, learning the patterns of enemy soldiers, learning how two candies will react when combined. They challenge you to learn and recognize patterns and the most appropriate ways to respond to them. That is what education is all about. Learning to recognize patterns and understand how best to respond to them. For me gamification is a natural fit for any learning, but especially eLearning where you can really go to town with the game aspects in a digital environment. Be it full 3-D experiences or simple text based adventures, they can really enhance the experience and lower the barriers for students. Of course, it all has to be done with the learning first—you cannot just bolt a question into candy crush and hope that it will encourage learning! I am not as keen on just using point and badges as the sole way to incentivize learning though, for me it has to be very deeply integrated and well thought out to work effectively.

How can eLearning practitioners apply this in practice? What can we achieve by using gamification in eLearning processes?
If you use it well and in the right context, you can make the learning much more relevant to students. As I say, you cannot just bolt a quiz onto a game, you need to make it contextually relevant. Situational simulation is a good example, where you get to test new skills in a safe environment. Imagine an adventure game that forced you to make decisions based on the chemistry you had learned and apply it to simulated problems. "You need to float the cork to the top of the tube to get the key, you have bicarbonate of soda and vinegar—what do you do?" It could be as simple as using products like H5P to create interactive timelines and puzzles to inject a little fun and entertainment into the learning process. Interactivity is more enjoyable for most than passively reading a PowerPoint. The key is to learn from experts like Karl Kapp or Alice Keeler (a few amongst many!)

What can you tell us about "User Type HEXAD Lenses"? How can elearning practitioners benefit from it?
The HEXAD lenses are based on my gamification user types HEXAD, which in turn is based on various theories around motivation. The lenses are there to make you question your design from a new perspective. Ask yourself if I was a socializer and motivated by relatedness, what is in the system for me? If I am motivated by mastery, what challenges are there for me to complete. This kind of facilitated introspection can help you to unlock other design ideas beyond what you personally feel would be good.

What do you think about the future of gamification?
I think it is bright, but not in the way you may think. I feel it will disappear as a distinct discipline (admittedly it needs to become a distinct discipline first) and just become another strand to good user experience design.

Where can we find out more about you and gamification?
You can get me on twitter by looking for @DaveRage or on my website

About the Author

Aras Bozkurt works as an academician at Anadolu University, Open Education Faculty. Dr. Bozkurt received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in distance education from Anadolu University. His current research interests are topics related to digital books, interactive e-books, gamification, game-based learning, research trends in distance education, social networks, online interaction, online learning spaces, online learning communities, online community formation and online learning. He is also interested in critical theories such as connectivism, rhizomatic learning, heutagogy and emerging research paradigms such as social network analysis, sentiment analysis, and data mining.

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