Look, it’s a game, it’s a simulation, no…it’s GAMIFICATION!

Back in October I wrote a blog post pushing back on the idea that we were actually creating a game.* Using Gredler’s (2004) work on games vs simulations I was arguing that while we were calling Ivanhoe a game we weren’t incorporating essential elements of game-play (i.e. rules, goals, the ability to win, etc). As we begin wire-framing, these same questions are coming into play again: should we have a role journal? what about points?

Such a conversation got me thinking again about what we’re actually making. To help me with this struggle, I ordered a copy of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook  written by Karl Kapp, Lucas Blair, and Rich Mesh (2014). By reading their book I came to realize that we’re not producing a game or a simulation…we are actually incorporating gamification. Gamification means that we are using elements of games to create a more engaging pedagogical environment.

As Kapp et al write, “Gamificiation is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game-thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems” (2014: 54). Moreover, I think Ivanhoe is using more content gamification vs structural gamification. While these are not mutually exclusive ideas, it seems that we want to create a product that “makes the content more game-like but doesn’t turn the content into a game” (pg 55).

Such a revelation about what we were making gave me a renewed sense of energy about our product.  By working with the elements of gamification we can “encourage learners to progress through content, motivate action, influence behavior, and drive innovation” (pg 56). In doing so, we can make something that enhances learning and hopefully adds a bit more enjoyment to our classroom.

*Side note, my original post was selected by Digital Humanities Now for “Editors Choice” – if you’ve got some time, you should peruse their other selections. It’s a great way to see what else is going on in the DH world.

I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the Sociology Department and am interested in the intersection between media and society. My specific sociological interests are media (as culture), gender, and inequality.


  1. Gamification would be a great way to encourage learning. It would be great to have this kind of hands on learning in an environment that feels almost like a game. This game-like feeling is no doubt very welcoming and helps make the simulation more enjoyable.

  2. Glad you found the book valuable, Francesca! Our goal is writing a Fieldbook was to give people the tools to actually do the work– and it looks like it’s helping you do just that!