An argument for games in education without 'gamification'

Game industry veteran Michael John has published an editorial on TechCrunch reminding us that applying game mechanics to real-world education systems may undercut the natural satisfaction of learning.
"As an industry, our objective should not be to 'gamify' learning at all."
- Glasslab game director Michael John suggests the 'gamification' movement in education may have been a misstep by well-meaning developers. Game industry veteran Michael John (Spyro the Dragon, Spore Hero) has published an interesting editorial over on TechCrunch reminding developers that applying superficial game mechanics to a real-world system like the U.S. K-12 education program undercuts the very real satisfaction that comes simply from learning and mastering new skills. "Our task is to show how learning is already very much like a game and to draw out those gamelike qualities," argues John. His company GlassLab Games is responsible for classroom-oriented games like SimCityEDU, and while John does make a point of highlighting GlassLab's products he also clearly delineates the difference between an educational program with game-like elements and a pure game that mirrors the satisfaction of learning something new. "Rather than looking at 'gamification of learning' as a process that’s applied to curricula to make school more interesting, we should recognize that learning at its best already has game-like elements that are latent and waiting to be unlocked," writes John. He goes on to detail how GlassLab tried to design its debate skills training game, Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy, such that the satisfaction players earn from mastering its systems mirrors the satisfaction they might feel from successfully employing the skill of argumentation -- a skill the game is subtly designed to teach. "It’s not a piece of software that 'gamifies' argumentation…. It’s not even a 'game about argumentation,' writes John. "It’s a game of argumentation." More details on the game's design and John's argument for the place of digital games in education are worth reading on the TechCrunch website.

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