The Unconventional Gamification: Play it like D&D

Truth be told, I wasn’t sold into Gamification the first time I learned about it. Seeing that most of it merely added points, badges, and leaderboards (PBL) wherever it could fit. It seemed to me that PBLs are deliberately attached to marketing, training, and development for the sole purpose of hacking user motivation, which tantamounts to addiction really.

If Gamification is merely about PBLs, then look no further than schools who already had all these things running for decades: points = grades, badges = certificates, and leaderboards = honor rolls. Gamification that only brushes into racking up points and credits doesn’t add anything more to the user. It only exists to get your attention for long bouts of your time.

To my delight, I later found out Gamification is immensely more profound than I took it for. Seasoned professionals of the craft may occasionally use PBLs, but they do so only as a side note. Their focus is telling stories—and making players feel the stories they participate in.

This warped me back into my Dungeons & Dragon days with my friends. D&D is a role-playing game where all we ever needed was a storyteller (aka a dungeon master), paper sheets, and a couple of dice. Armed with these, we feel we can go anywhere and do anything: lay siege to castles, slay a dragon, concoct magic, etc.

Life is a series of good stories to share and learn about. We are, after all, story-telling-absorbing creatures. We are constantly thirsting for stories, or as much as possible, be into one. I think this is a greater, more profound experience than just racking up points. Nobody ever said in their deathbeds, “I wish I earned more points!”

This is why I feel that Gamification can truly live up to its potential when it is patterned like D&D, instead of PBL-based games like Candy Crush or Farm Heroes.

I’m not saying that points, badges, and leaderboards are useless. But from a player’s point of view, concentrating your efforts to get the points, grab the badge and be constantly up on the leaderboard kills the “fun” of the game process. Leaderboards, especially, can create the habit of comparing one’s performance with others, which becomes detrimental to your mental health over time.

By “fun”, I mean experiencing something that requires you to dig deep into your intrinsic motivation and use that as your primary tool for playing.

Instead of PBL, D&D’s interface for the game is the character sheet. This sheet helps you track your character’s abilities over the course of the story. When used for gamification purposes, the character sheet can be anchored with the user’s intrinsic motivation. You can list down your perceived strengths and abilities and use your particular set of skills to succeed in the game.

The game mechanics of D&D can transform gamification into a new ballgame—one that is more collaborative, rather than competitive; and more open for brainstorming and idea-sharing, which bodes well for training and learning programs.

Our gamification services in i-TeachOptions aim to make a seamless blend of learning and gaming at the same time. On the surface, this may sound very technical; but really, we’re just dungeon masters who want to play more D&D like we did when we were kids.