College courses are like games in that we have rules, challenges, scores, academic fair play.  Competition is often encouraged for good grades by creating Dean Lists and other awards for those who score high in academic achievement.  In a way, academic environments promote discrimination based on academic achievement.

Failure is often villainized and punished.  Given a challenge a student often has a single try to be evaluated and graded.  This makes courses very different from games, since opportunities to fail in games are plenty and practice is promoted.  Failure is where much of learning takes place.  Embracing the art of failure makes for the best learners.

College courses became poorly designed games when the stakes of grades became too high.  Today too much depends on high grades.  Rewards include scholarships, admission to academic programs, future prospects of jobs.  Parents often pressure their children to achieve high grades.  This sometimes leads to academic dishonesty and student inability to develop positive emotional relationship with the course subject matter even if the final grade ends up being an A.

Courses are already very much like games, but they need improvement.  When failure is encouraged and the goals of autonomy, meaning, and mastery are designed into courses, they transition from being bad games into being good games.  Such games are worth playing for the fun of it, they do not have to be won.


Student Clips on Gamification of Courses