Tangible & Non-Tangible Rewards

If you read my post on the highly unscientific, n=1 experiment that I conducted on myself, you probably noticed that many of the rewards I gave to myself fell under this category (tangible and non-tangible rewards). I gamified an aspect of my life by giving myself points for reading journal articles and book chapters. I also gave myself points for freewriting and finishing assignments. These points translated to dollars, and the money I made was redeemable at the end of the week. In this instance, the money was spent on enjoying a fancy meal with a friend at the end of the week. Points, coins and badges are the easiest and most accessible way to gamify something. Having said that, as I said before, just because it’s easy and accessible, doesn’t mean that you should go ahead and stick points, coins and badges to everything.

Why do points exist in the first place? More often than not, in video games points are a form of feedback, they teach the player how to play the game. How do you know if you are moving correctly on the screen? If you fall off a height in a platformer, you will probably lose a life. If you do something correctly, you gain points, so points are essentially a form of positive reinforcement. In the world of education, we give out marks. You could argue that marks are much like points in the sense that they are a form of feedback, and they are (often) both numerical. However, the problem with marks in education, is everybody walks into class at the beginning of the school term with an ‘A,’ or if you live in Australia, 100%. Then, assessments are completed, and the 100% starts to become 94% when the student gets 6/10 after they hand in their first assessment. Then the next assessment task is handed in, the student might get 16/20, so their 94% becomes 91%. Points (or marks) are lost and reduced over the course of the semester. It is not about gaining, rather it is about losing. In video games, this is reversed – everybody starts with an ‘F’ (or 0%) and then by the act of playing, points are awarded. This particular criticism of the education system was one that I came across in Lee Sheldon’s book The Multiplayer Classroom. Sheldon took a class on games development in a university and put forward a system where everybody starts with an ‘F.’ A number of assignments or ‘quests’ are implemented over the course of the semester, and if you screwed up in any one of them, you had another chance to redeem yourself. You could gain points through other systems. For instance ‘farming’ was an activity that involved going through and fixing up the typos in a textbook on games. Points were awarded for farming, and farming gave you the opportunity to redeem if you failed (or didn’t score too well) in a quest.

I haven’t actually tried this gamified point system, but I do like the idea – what are your thoughts?

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