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Gamification and gameful thinking are different.  Lee and Doh (2012) suggest that gamification should be defined more narrowly to include game mechanics that appeal to extrinsic motivation (points, badges, leaderboards), while gameful design focuses on intrinsic motivation. Because in many games, just as on academic campuses, players tend to represent diverse populations, both approaches are used in concert to appeal to various personalities.  I would submit, that gamification and gameful design are ways to invite people to explore foreign subjects deeper and to break down fears and stress related to the unknown.  Because of that, the connection between the need for inclusiveness and gameful thinking needs to be explored.

In order to build inclusive campuses it is necessary to generate empathy.  While many definitions of empathy exist across various fields of study, empathy surrounds experience and changing perspectives (Belman & Flanagan, 2010).  Aristotle claimed: “To perceive is to suffer.”  In an anecdotal expression, empathy is “feeling someone else’s pain in your own heart.” Changing perspectives can be uncomfortable, but necessary to build inclusive environments.

There are many reasons why consider inclusiveness in the classroom.  One is stereotype threat, which may decrease the academic achievement of certain students (Levy, 2012).  When students feel like they hate match or they are not good at computers, they may waste mental resources on such fears.  Feeling included and feeling like they are accepted in the space will help students reach their potential.

Dr. Jeffrey Mogil from McGill University is a professor of Pain Studies.  His research suggests that playing games, like Rock Band, can help to build empathy in strangers.  Additionally, the reason why we sometimes do not feel empathy with strangers is because we are stressed by them.  Could playing games together on campus help to reduce the stress generated by strangers and promote inclusiveness?

The most commonly played games on campus are classes.  Each class has a set of rules, set of goals, objectives, and a scoring system.  When taking classes with students of diverse backgrounds students get to know each other and they interact with each other under the same rules.

Sometimes taking classes with diverse students is the first time new students experience other accents, cultures, backgrounds, lifestyles.  At times there are opportunities in class to listen to other perspectives and views.  Other times, a small group assignment may invite personal expressions and thought exchanges in a more private setting.

Brene Brown explores the subject of empathy and the benefit of vulnerability.  She also makes a distinction between sympathy and empathy.  She touches on the speedy process of blaming others in order to protect our need to feel like we are in control.  If we follow the idea that students are vulnerable in class, setting up games to give students rules of interaction and autonomy of choices may increase their capacity for empathy.



Classes are poorly designed games.  A class could be turned into a well designed game if it includes elements of autonomy, detailed tracking of mastery, and relation to a greater purpose or meaning.  Such activities should be voluntary, they should not affect the grade in a negative way.  This way a student can opt out or opt in and engage the playful experience.  Extra credit is the simplest way to implement this in a classroom, but other more complex architectures can be used like course experience points.

Gabe Zichermann states that short cycles of challenge, achievement, and resulting pleasure stimulate engagement.  Since emotion drives action and engagement, games should be welcomed as a tool to drive engagement as they engender emotion.  The dopamine released during successful completion of a challenge feeds intrinsic motivation.

Some games are specifically built to foster empathy.  “Games are well-suited to this because they allow players to inhabit the roles of other people in a uniquely immersive way” (Belman & Flanagan, 2010).  I believe that the process of playing games together can go a long way in building inclusive classes and campuses.




Levy, D. (2012). Stereotype Threat. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2bAlUKtvMk

NPR. (2015, March 27). How Can Playing A Game Make You More Empathetic? Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2015/03/27/395039920/how-can-playing-a-game-make-you-more-empathetic


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