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gamification also gameification

noun [uncountable]

the adaptation of applications, especially learning materials, to make them become like games so that people are more interested in using them

gamify also gameify

verb [transitive]

'The opportunities for gamification are everywhere, and everyone is a gamer – it's part of human nature. By applying these tactics, you can employ subtle psychological responses that will keep your customers paying and engaging.'

Fast Company 5th March 2014

'The idea of turning an otherwise mundane process into a game, to give people more of an incentive to do it, has been a hot trend this year, known as gameification.'

The Economist 3rd November 2010

'The theory goes that if you gamify something – particularly something with a reputation for dullness – for someone, then it makes it more fun and makes them more motivated.'

Metro 25th February 2014

If you're the sort of person who finds it tricky to immerse themselves in study and frequently succumbs to the temptation to 'have a break' by picking up a video game controller, or if your thirst for knowledge is regularly compromised by a thirst for gold stars or progress to 'the next level', then the concept of gamification might be just the ticket to get you back on track to academic success.

the basic premise is … that if you make tasks more fun, people are more likely to engage with them and persevere, work harder, achieve goals, etc, because they are enjoying themselves and feel more motivated

Gamification is a process in which concepts associated with game playing, such as point scoring, competition with others, fixed rules, attainment of levels, rewards, etc, are incorporated into other, often work- or study-related, areas of activity. The basic premise is of course that if you make tasks more fun, people are more likely to engage with them and persevere, work harder, achieve goals, etc, because they are enjoying themselves and feel more motivated.

Though the term gamification (and its related transitive verb, to gamify) is by no means restricted in scope to electronic contexts, it's perhaps no surprise that the concept is mainly associated with computer or web-based activities. Within this there are, however, applications in a wide variety of domains. Gamification techniques can be used in marketing and advertising for instance, to increase customer engagement with a particular product or service. There's a fun example here from baby product manufacturer Johnson's®, where potential consumers play interactive games to ascertain just how 'babylagged' they are. Another spin sees gamification applied in life management/productivity apps, which help users keep track of their diaries and award them 'gold' or 'points' if they check off a task, complete a project, save money, etc. Here it's almost as if individuals become like computer game characters, complete with health, energy and even willpower bars!

But by far the most extensive application of gamification is in educational materials, and English Language Teaching (ELT) is one area in particular where it's causing a stir. Its proponents emphasize the fun, motivational angle for tech-savvy language learners who are often accessing learning materials whilst on the move in a trend now described as m-learning or mobile learning. And gamification also appears to be the perfect partner for another currently fashionable concept in ELT known as adaptive learning, in which materials are automatically adapted according to students' needs, these needs in turn indicated by their responses to particular tasks and questions – or perhaps scores in a gamified activity. Gamification is therefore yet another response to the way technology is turning educational ethos on its head, occupying the same revolutionary territory as concepts like blended learning, in which students access a combination of classroom- and online-based learning methods, or the flipped classroom, where students watch instructive material online and go into a classroom situation to complete activities (rather than being instructed in class and completing activities independently – hence the term flipped).

Background – gamification

Of course the concept underlying gamification is nothing new – the idea of using fun and play to motivate people and make work seem more enjoyable has a very long history. However, it wasn't until the widespread use of new technologies that this idea really began to crystallize. The terms gamification and gamify first appeared in the early 2000s and their coinage is often associated with Nick Pelling, a British computer games programmer. But the terms didn't really become generally known until several years later, their popularization initially associated with Foursquare, a location-based social networking website awarding points when users check in at particular venues.

The terms gamify and gamification are modelled on other words ending in the suffix -ify, which is used with some adjectives and nouns to create verbs meaning 'to make something become something' (e.g. electrify, purify, and corresponding derived forms electrification, purification, etc).

Other new expressions on the 'play-meets-work' theme include edutainment, referring to entertainment with an educational function, and exergaming, describing the activity of playing video games that provide physical exercise.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

For teachers

Would you like to use this BuzzWord article in class? Visit onestopenglish.com for tips and suggestions on how to do just that! The free downloadable pdf includes reading activities, matching verbs and noun phrases from the article to make collocations, matching key words from the article with their definitions, and filling in gaps to complete sentences using words and expressions from the article.

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This article was first published on 1st April 2014.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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