Realistification vs. Gamification vs. Game-based Learning

Gamification of Thrones
Gamification of Thrones

Confession. Okay, confession. “Realistification” is not a real word. Made-up word. I made it up. But so was Gamification at some point, and look how main stream it is now! In fact, it’s so hot that the next season of Game of Thrones is rumored to be retitled as Gamification of Thrones. Yet, there seems to be a lot of mythfusion about the meaning behind Gamification, and especially, Gamification of learning vs. Game-based learning.

“For a long time I thought I was the only idiot who got confused by the terms gaming,game-based training, and gamification.”

Gamification of learning is not about creating games. It is about creating game-like learning experiences by applying game-thinking and game mechanics to a non-game context (ask Siri if you don’t believe me). Clear as MUD. To illuminate that a little, let’s return for a moment to Realistification.

When you write a screenplay, you create a reality-like experience. A movie has characters we can identify with, clear motivation that drives them, a goal they try to reach, a plot that thickens with twists and turns around them, etc. In movies, people act like they’re real, talk like they’re real but in reality (pun intended), it is just imitation: imitation of actual elements of reality. Now, Realistification has a scale. Some movies are closer to reality than others. But none of them are actual reality! Thing is, it would be too boring. So, the process of Realistification is applying realistic elements (characters, goals, settings, plot, etc.) to non-realistic contexts. How do you know movies are not real? Like when was the last time you saw a hero driving around trying to find a parking spot downtown?

Realistification is an art of imitating reality by using key elements and applying them to a system to create a framework where they all make sense.And that’s the key: make sense. You can create the most far-fetched story, as long as your world and all that it contains make sense within the rules of engagement. You may have heard of the the term, suspense of disbelief. What it means is that we are willing to believe what we see, as long as the framework of the movie is sound and clear to us. Matrix, anyone?

How about bad movies? Have you ever seen a movie that had all the twists and turns it should, and yet, it was horrible? Like there was no glue to make it cohesive? Or you questioned the hero’s motivation from the beginning? And you were more confused than amazed at the end? Making good movies is an art and goes way beyond throwing together characters, plots and other elements.

Gamification of learning is the art of making game-like learning experiences. It is not an add-on “points, badges and leaderboards” to an existing boring learning process. It is not an afterthought of a Quiz engine. Applying random game mechanics as an afterthought to learning is like making a bad movie. Please, do not make bad movies.

“For a long time I thought I was the only idiot who got confused by the terms gaming,game-based training, and gamification.” Fortunately, much smarter people than I am have already addressed this issue. Here’s the link to a great interview Monica Cornetti did with Thiagi on the terminology or Karl Kapp’s blog on the subject.

How about you? What’s your organization doing? Gamification? Game-based learning? Or both?


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