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Team Turtle: World Cup Predictions, FIFA Gamification & a Catspiracy!

Neil deGrasse Tyson Dr. Who Meme

My favorite time and space exploring doctor doesn’t need a screwdriver or police box to be awesome.

Big Head? He’s the Brazilian loggerhead turtle that is predicting FIFA Cup team winners before the games take place. He’s 1 for 1 now, eating a fish underneath a Brazilian flag instead of under a Croatian flag or soccer/football to represent a draw. Though, according to this article, the legendary footballer Pele believes Chile will take it all. I’m a hometown girl and will be rooting for the US of A during their games.

While there is no overall gamification strategy throughout the FIFA World Cup Brazil site, they do have a few corporate sponsored games with the possibility of winning physical prizes. The Castrol’s Predictor Challenge does use leagues/teams with leaderboard and points. The game also provides golden questions that are only available 24 hours before the game to encourage daily visits to the site.  How would you have gamified the World Cup website to make engagement better?

While FIFA players are going to fight it out like cats and dogs, back home at the “GSummit” (G for gamification), Neil deGrasse Tyson in his keynote speech suggests that we all have something to teach at the end of the day. If anyone else headed to GSummit, please drop us a line here and share your thoughts.  We are made of star-stuff/star-dust and the universe wants to kill you. Change your perspective because 1/3 of galaxies rotate counter-clockwise. Guess what- he knows where Krypton is! Cat memes have messages? There are probably as many science memes as cat memes. Okay, wait a minute! While blogging at BBWorld13 last year, keynote speaker Clay Shirky highlighted cat memes and now Neil deGrasse Tyson brings them up. This sounds like a “catspiracy”.  Why not turtle memes? The turtles and tortoises of the universe are revolting.

Big Head approves this message.

A new study shows benefits of violent video games for kids’ learning – Washington Post

See on Scoop.itgamified2learn

A new study shows benefits of violent video games for kids’ learning Washington Post Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive…

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Violent games are beneficial to learning? Not what you expect, right?  Everything in moderation, of course.

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How to Beat the Game- Motivation in Education

boy walking with carrot dangling from a stick via a hat contraptionMotivating students to achieve, learn, retain.  It’s what instructors and instructional designers want.  The question continues to be how to do it best, your newest buzz word- what’s “best practice”?  Gamification is another buzz word being throw around in various sectors from corporate business to education, with claims to increase interaction, sales or engagement by supposed triple number percentages.  Gamification is the process of applying game elements to ordinary activities to affect a desired change. A best practice, possibly. Get ready for a news flash: education is already gamified.

But, Education Is (Poorly) Gamified

Is education is already gamified? Some say yes it is, yet poorly. We say poorly because students aren’t effectively engaged and compete poorly on a global scale.  Let’s address some game design elements currently used in education:

  • Course objectives are goals for attainment.
  • Students earn points for completing tasks (assignments=quests).
  • Students collaborate in groups (guilds).
  • Students get feedback through grades.
  • Students level up based on points, moving from C-> B -> A. Students level up through grade years as well.
  • Grades K-12 have honor rolls while universities have the Dean’s List in the way of leader boards.
  • The ultimate badge/certification is a diploma.

The imperative is to address these game elements, as well as others, in order to make them more effective towards the course objectives. Game design is everywhere, as Elizabeth Sampat argues.  Gamification is one tool for learning in education, not a solution or magic formula.  It depends on the design, the mechanics.  Good Design = Good Gaming.

Get Practice in Game Design

Before you begin to apply game elements to your lessons, you may want to get into the “trenches” first. Playing well-designed games is a great way to start to get experience in gamification and game design.  Find games that have a “stickiness” factor- the addictive qualities or that desire to make you want to keep playing.  Ask yourself why you keep playing?  What makes you think about the game when you are not playing? What game elements are used and what continues to motivate you?  What frustrates you, though not enough to make you want to give up? These are the elements you should captivate and employ to increase collaboration and engagement in your courses.

Check out 16 principles of good game design by James Gee for more details how to apply game elements to education.  My favorite is “pleasantly frustrated,” whereas I continue for the past 249+ days to try to beat level 147 in Candy Crush with the sound turned off (because it is annoying), without contributing any money to it’s company, King.

Examples of Applying Game Elements to Education


Applying game elements to education is especially effective when you teach the players how to build their own game.  This Edutopia article describes how students create their own boss level assignment to overcome. The phrase “boss level” refers to the culminating challenge in a video game where players use all the skills they have to solve the problem. Students apply what they have learned during the semester to create a challenging task, a Rube Goldberg machine (a machine designed to accomplish a simple task in a complex way, usually through chain reaction)- transitioning the learner to leader.  This approach provides prime opportunity for a student-centered learning environment.


Professor Lampe from University of Michigan teaching informatics shares how he gamified his class lectures here through- *gasp* a video. Prof. Lampe has received testimonies from his former students noting they have a better recollection of the class experience and the course content compared to others classes.  Study is still ongoing to quantify the result of the gamification of his course.


Steven Johnson from Temple University introduced The Quest to his MIS3538 Social Media Innovation course.  He used self-paced learning and self-selected activities that progressively got more difficulty providing feedback through points, badges, ranking through a leader board and recognition for leveling up.  Read more about it.

Hopefully this has your brain gears churning away of how to apply gamification principles to engage students.  Don’t forget to leave us a comment especially if you think Candy Crush’s music is weird or if you have used gamification in your course. Until next time, keep on gaming!

Size Matters! Grow a Bigger Brain By Playing Video Games

Proof is in the pudding, so they say.  Businesses look to the “bottom line” and growing their wallets so yes, size does matter!  In the field of education we look to grow a person’s passion for learning, learning retention and brain power.    Lifehacker quotes a study where playing games, specifically Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes over two months increased certain areas of grey matter in the brain.  Generally increased grey matter has been associated with better memory, while decreased grey matter has been associated with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and dementia.  Specific areas of the brain that grew were related to regions responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control and spatial navigation.  Here’s an article from Huffington Post that mentions this brainy video game study and others- 9 reasons why videos games are good for you.

Does Playing Video Games Increase Learning Retention?

Brain X-RaySo if playing games increases grey matter (which we can universally agree is good) and if those games contained educational content, would that improve learning retention?  Similarly what if immediately after playing a stress-relieving game, you received instruction- would that also improve or maximize learning retention?  This blog article by 1 to 1 Schools mentions several instances that notes game play improves learning retention short-term, although video games are too “new” to scientific study for long-term data.  Anyone willing to play games for the good of science?  However, this white paper states active learning increases long-term retention.  Simulation games are a great way of fostering active learning.  It’s all in the design.  Leave us a comment if you’ve played a game that has helped you learn something new or help you learn a topic better.  Do you think in the future that you’ll tell your kids to play some video games before they do their homework?

Infographic about Neurology of Gaming

Can Virtual Reality Keep Us Safe During Disasters?

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Screenshot of Virtual Reality Game to Prepare for Disaster

The United Nations recently commemorated the International Day for Disaster Reduction, an annual effort to raise the profile of disaster preparedness.

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Games are useful when applied to a variety of fields.  Here the United Nations uses games to help us prepare for disaster while “gamers solve decade old HIV puzzle in 10 DAYS!

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A Game By Any Other Name… Defining a Game

What’s in a name? that which we call a game, By any other name would play as fun?

Hold up, wait a minute!  How could I blabber on about gamification without even defining what a game is?  You might say, “Silly goose, everyone knows what a game is.”  You might be able to identify a game by virtue of its fun factor, but what qualities make a game, a game?  Let’s take an example and break it down.

Is Tug of War a Game?

Sepia image of Zulu men posing for picture, playing tug of war in 1903

by Okinawa Soba (Flickr); CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Everyone will probably agree that Tug of War is a simple game.  First you need a rope and two teams, right?  Then you place the rope on the ground, unfurled and straight.  In the middle, there is a real or imaginary line drawn.  Equal numbers of players (usually 8 per side) aligned themselves with the ends of the rope on each side of the center line.  When the command is given to pull, each team pulls in the opposite direction to get the other team to cross the center line.  There are variations on these rules and more formal ones can be found the Tug of War Federation rules page.

I’m not keen on using Wikipedia as a scholarly resource, but it does have a nice definition of what a game is: “A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements.”  Games include the following components:

  1. Goal
  2. Rules
  3. Challenge
  4. Interaction/Choices.

Using our Tug of War example, the goal is to get the other team to cross the center line to prove which team is stronger.  Our rules include using a certain number of equal players on each side, defining the center line etc.  The challenge of game is overcoming the obstacle of the other team’s strength.  Interaction doesn’t necessarily refer to interaction between players even though in this example this occurs.  Interaction or choices refers to a player’s feedback from interacting with other players or acting upon game tools.

Another good but very general definition of a game by Kevin Maroney is “a game is a form of play with goals and structure.”  Simple and easily expressed; however, it folds rules, challenge and choices into “structure.”  Later when we talk about what makes a good game, we’ll want to have these different aspects separate for evaluation.

Watch a Video: Popcorn Time

Check out this TEDtalk by Will Wright, creator of Spore, the Sims and Sim City.  He talks about the birth of his game Spore and how he believes games can change the world.  Can you identify the four (4) game components of Spore we mentioned previously in this post?  I know, it’s a little long but totally worth it! Drop us a comment or two about your definition of game or your thoughts on gaming changing the world.  We’d love to hear from you.  Until next time, keep on gaming!

Video Games Represent the Most Powerful (and Potentially Dangerous) Era

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Boy with headphones playing videogame on TV

Video Games Represent the Most Powerful (and Potentially Dangerous) Era in …
Huffington Post
Over the course of one weekend, I lost 12 hours, 42 minutes and 1 second. I don’t know how it happened. It took me like a fever.

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Do you think videos games are dangerous or does it depend on the type of game?

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Top 3 “Fun” Fitness Apps to Keep You Fit for the Zombie Invasion

Congratulations, by clicking on this post you’ve burned approximately 1.42 calories!  Not many love exercising- it is what it is.  Most of us don’t have super active jobs anymore so we need to exercise in order to maintain our health and fitness, or improve it.  I won’t harp on the exponentially rising obesity rates in the United States, because we ain’t got time for that. Games are a great way to motivate us to get on the exercise ball!  The combination of video games and exercise, termed as “exergaming” has steadily been on the rise since Nintendo Wii’s inception. Let’s move on, or just start moving!

3. Nexercise

Here’s a basic gamified approach to exercise that awards badges, points and also uses leader boards (BPL).  You can also win rewards: swag, ie free stuff and discounts to merchandise/services.  Share your results easily with friends to add to the  competition game element.  What’s so great about this app?  If you are competitive and a high achiever, this app will get your started on your fitness journey.  However, there is no storyline in Nexercise and no direct engagement while you are exercising.  This app is more akin to a activity monitor with perks!

2. Fit Freeway

Screenshot of Fit Freeway app during play

Lose weight and get fit playing video games. Really! The key is finding exercise you enjoy – that’s Fit Freeway.

This app will get you racing to use the elliptical or stationary bike!  Fit Freeway is an old-style arcade car racing game.  Available for iOS devices, it uses the iPhone/iPad accelerometer to track your activity while you use the front facing camera to steer your speeding car.  Seeing as you need to hold the phone in front of your face for this app to work properly, you’re going to lose some intensity while running/jogging.  However, the faster or more intense your activity- the faster your car goes!

What’s great about this app?  This is fun and sometimes that is all you need.  The fun factor provides a distraction from gym boredom of staring at the wall or the TV.  However, a review stated the vibration detection to determine the car’s acceleration wasn’t spot on.  Fit Freeway might be left in the dust compared to the next top “fun” fitness app listed below.

1. Zombie Run

Zombie Run 2 logo

Get Fit. Escape Zombies. Become a Hero.

Download either Zombie Run ($3.99) available for iOS or Android.  Zombies are big now, much like most of our waistlines. The premise is you are not undead, but the undead are chasing after you.  While you run, you pick up ammunition and medical supplies that you need for your home base.  You create your own music playlist and in between song tracks voice recordings or radio announcements are made updating you to your storyline.  After your run/jog, you use supplies to build up your home base.

What’s great about this app?  Run or die. The future of humans is depending on you; it’s a race for survival.  It’s a severe thought, but a motivating one if you role play in this situation.  In addition, this game has a creation component that allows you to create a virtual living environment as you are responsible of the success and viability of the home base/township.  Psychologically speaking, this type of activity gives an user a sense of control and accomplishment.  This game has 33 free missions (more if you pay for them) to allow you to level up as you play. In addition, this app easily allows you to share your workout logs with others via social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  Stay alive and go get your game on!

Games kids play- Your first time?

My first game that I remember playing was Carmen Sandiego followed by Oregon Trail. I’ll tell you a secret if you won’t tell anyone. Promise? Okay, I still enjoy playing both of those games as an adult. I keep playing because I want to beat the games and I want to make it to Oregon faster and with more money than I did the last time. I’m competing with the game myself.


Photo of person dressed as Carmen Sandiego

copyright (c) 2012 by tr.robinson (flickr)
available by Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

What made you keep playing? This refers to the “stickiness” of the game. Some people play games for a sense of distraction, to make the time pass in a more entertaining way like when they play punch buggy or I spy in a car. While others play to make a period of time more interesting, to up the stimulation ante such as those they playing drinking games during Walking Dead shows or while reading a silly blog post on gamification. However stickiness refers to qualities that make you pick the game controllers back up to keep playing.

So what keeps you playing, player? Were you trying to beat your own high score, to level up or white-knuckled to beat the game? Exploring imaginary worlds or role-playing as a unique character on an epic adventure? Connecting with friends or making new ones? These are some qualities that make games addictive and games are designed to be addictive.

In fact, there’s an app for that- well maybe not an app but at least a website to address video game & Internet addiction. The website is not an exaggeration of conservative folks going off the deep end. From the addiction website, it states that scientist conducted a study in 2005 that found dopamine levels in players’ brains doubled when playing. Dopamine as a mood-regulating hormone is associated with feelings of pleasure, which indicate that gaming could be chemically addictive. If you want to learn more about your brain on games, check out this great article referencing studies by James Gee.

On another note, what makes you stop playing a game you enjoy (or once enjoyed)?

In the next few blog posts, we’ll address WHY games and game elements are important, to identify the importance they play in gamification. Remember that a game does not make gamification make. For example in the reading of the previous blog post (task) that was gamified with a drinking game (game element), you were encouraged to drink more water (behavior change). Think of it this simplified way: Game Elements + Tasks/Activity =Behavior Change.

Gamify this!


Gamification: the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service….

Glass of ice water with lemon slice and straw sitting upon a white napkin on a wooden table

Jon Sullivan/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Um, yeah. In short, we add game elements to an activity in order to change behavior. Perhaps we’ll do this to encourage someone to do something they really don’t like doing (like exercise), or we’ll gamify some activities to encourage a better quantity or quality of participation. As an example, let’s gamify this blog post.  Every time you read the word “gamification,” take a drink (ahem, of water). Cheers!

Now, I bet when you think of gamification, you’re still imagining video or computer games. Say you don’t play video games?  No worries- gamification still has a place in your life because it is everywhere.  Take a moment to think where you might have seen gamification in action.

You might think about:

Igor, it’s alive!  We’ll dismantle this monster of a list more in depth during a future post.  However, like any creation, things can go awry- especially if not well designed.


This blog will assist you in learning more about gamification and its components.  We’ll highlight good and not so good examples of its application to avoid a franken-gamification-stein. We want good gamification, and we want it now!  We’re going to explore and discuss gamification as a trend, some “how-tos” and debate its future- which involves you!


Extra Credits did a great video to introduce us to gamification, so let’s watch.  When they talk about gamification and it’s use in capitalism, do you think they have a valid point?

And lastly, gamification, gamification, gamification! 10 points to you if you’re on the way to the bathroom.  How many drinks was that?  What was my primary goal in gamifying this blog post, other than providing an example of gamification?  What behavior was encouraged to be modified? Drop in with a comment if you think you’ve got it.  Until next time, go get your game on!