The Importance of Creating a Challenge in Gamified Projects

The following blog post was written by guest blogger, Melissa Milloway.

gamificationIn one of his more recent blog posts Karl Kapp wrote “Use of Challenge in Gamification and Learning Design” and he hit the nail right on the head. Kapp took the approach that a challenging gamified project (on both the structural and the content front) will lure learners in and keep them hooked. The topic stuck with me and I decided to create my own opinion piece on the topic. I believe anyone who is thinking about designing a gamified solution should be well versed in creating challenging content and game structure.

Content is King

Even as a gamer and instructional designer, I sometimes forget about the most important factor when creating any learning solution. That factor is that content is king. We see game components like leaderboards, badges, and points and we get hooked on the idea of gamifying our next project. While components like leaderboards are important, the content that goes into a gamified solution and the structure of the game need to match the level the learner is at.

The content and game structure will also need to challenge the learner at the edge of their ability. Without the challenge the learner is not learning and they are most likely disinterested in the game. On the other hand, if the challenge is far too hard the learner may get frustrated and give up. The types of challenges we need to create are those that have been working all along in our instructional design (just outside of gamified solutions).

Playing the Piano

I know absolutely nothing about pianists, but I can think of a scenario that will resonate with most people. Take for instance, a beginner pianist playing beginner sheet music. You would never give a beginner pianist sheet music of a pianist who has played for 20 years; they just don’t have the knowledge or skills to play. You have to build upon the pianists skills. He/she should play the beginner music, learn more skills, and progress to a different level with new and tougher sheet music. The same thing goes for gamified solutions. In a gamified solution you could analyze where the learner is at and start them at the right level, or you could start them at the beginning and let them learn the game too (I think this would depend on how difficult the game structure is to learn). At level 1 of the game the learner would be experiencing how the game works and they are given content that is at their level, yet is still challenging.

Build on the Foundation

In order to make the game structure and content more challenging as the learner progresses you might: ask tougher questions that build off their lower level skills, introduce a timed scenario that counts down a bit faster each time the learner reaches their next level, or if the content has to do with a process they could be given access to more advanced tasks. The learner should never go from level 1 to the highest level and the most challenging content without having proven that they can handle it. You have to make sure they get it right before moving to a more challenging level.

The point is that the challenge must always be present in both content and structure. The challenge must be there to keep the learner learning new content and to stimulate their interest. You have to build upon the learner’s skills at the level they are at.

Melissa Milloway is an Instructional Technologist and Designer. Milloway holds a Master of Science in Instructional Technology from Bloomsburg University. You can connect with her via LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @MelMilloway.

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