Information in games’ terms

As all our followers have learned to know, Psyon Games is building a better world by gamifying scientific information. We’ve discussed this topic in our blog, with investors, in the speaker stages of fairs and events, on TV, and thousands of hours with each other.

But what does it really mean to gamify information? Is this just a bunch of marketing buzzwords? No. In this two-piece blog post we explain exactly what this is about and proudly showcase the reference numbers that prove the potential of our idea.

Game design elements refer to experiences characteristic to games.

These include challenges, rewards, playfulness, comparison, achievements, points, levels, badges etc.

Game design elements and gamification

Let’s first make ourselves familiar with the basic concepts. Game design elements refer to experiences characteristic to games. These include challenges, rewards, playfulness, comparison, achievements, points, levels, badges etc. Gamification stands for applying these elements in a non-game context such as learning processes, teamwork, or even sorting household waste.

Gamification is a powerful way to add incentives to any activity. It is very useful e.g. when turning heavy duties into something more fun and meaningful and piecing big tasks to groups of smaller tasks.

Gamification has been a hot topic in recent years. It is used in modern companies to motivate employees and teams. Despite the phenomenon beign fairly new, the scientific research about it is becoming more mature by the day (e.g [1,2]).

There are many different approaches to gamification that vary in complexity. Most of us have childhood experiences of crude reward mechanisms that resemble gamification. For example one could earn a weekly allowance by taking out the family’s trash.

To really gamify this activity, we need to ad some game design elements. For example one could try to get all the family members involved and create incentives for sorting the waste. Different waste types would earn the family different amounts of points so that energy waste would be less valuable than recyclable waste.

One could earn personal extra points by taking out the trash and taking the plastics to the nearest plastic recycling site would double the earned points. On a regular basis the points would turn into rewards on personal and team level. This way the boring but crucial activity, that is household waste management, could be turned into a motivational and communal activity!

Taken far enough, gamification can also lead into a digital game that also brings other benefits on the side of pure entertainment value. Such games are called applied games.

Gamifying information – how to do it right?

So, applying the above described, gamifying information is the process of turning information seeking and absorption into an engaging experience, that challenges and rewards the user while keeping count of their progress with some sort of point system.

The basic idea of gamified information is not new or revolutionary. Everyone who has been to school during the 21st century has probably played some sort of education game at some point. Education games are applied games that are meant for learning. Unfortunately for most of us the word “education game” doesn’t invoke an image of a well designed game, but rather of a clumsy interface to something that looks and feels like a digital text book. Education games – as we remember them – are simply one approach to gamified information. It’s a shame they’ve created such strong prejudices about the subject – the established idea of boring games in which the same design flaws are repeated over and over again.

We are sorry to say this, but most education games we know follow a particular flawed design guideline that gets the best of them. This guideline is the dogmatic approach to the learning content in the game. This means being unconditional about the content, the way and the order in which information is presented. When the learning objects of the game are imposed by some sort of committee that doesn’t participate the game design process and the developers have no rights whatsoever to mingle with them, the result is very likely a product in which the game elements feel odd and unconnected. Meaningless points or transition animations can’t create the experience alone, if the core game feels like doing text book exercises.

This design method in which the pedagogical objectives automatically surpass game design as a priority is inherently problematic at least for two reasons.

  1. The game is not just a tool, but its own form of art and science.
  2. The purpose of the game is not to replace a text book or other well established methods, but to expand the spectrum of learning methods.

The value of the game is ultimately determined by its quality as a game. Even if someone put the entire curriculum of high school math into a single game, it wouldn’t serve any purpose, if no one wants to play it.

Among other things a good game is fun, engaging and it serves challenges and rewards in a balanced way maintaining the player in a state of flow. In a well designed applied game, the benefits of the game are so well integrated into the game experience, that the experience may not differ at all from a good entertainment game. To reach this outcome, the game designer must be allowed to spice and stir the game concept with beneficial content as they see best.

When an applied game is designed game quality first, and the beneficial content is integrated within the condition that it doesn’t disrupt the experience, the result will be an engaging experience that inspires and introduces the player to a new topic, visualizes information and allows the player to wonder, explore and experiment. These type of games will be played even without teacher’s orders. In fact, they have the potential to reach millions of players.

In our next post we will show you how the Psyon Games gamified information method elevates the digital strategies of the life-science industry to a whole new level.

[1]Nacke, L. E. & Deterding, S. The maturing of gamification research (2017)

[2]Rapp, A; Hopfgartner, F; Hamari, J; Linehan, C; Cena, F. Strengthening gamification studies: Current trends and future opportunities of gamification research (2019)

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