Reflection on Game Mechanics and Development (Gamifiying my Life)

I’m experimenting with using story to gamify. This weekend my kids are my target. They (9 and 13) HATE taking family walks, something I force on them once a week or so. This week I’m calling it a family “adventure” (using the right language) and allowing them to bring a friend telling them only that the adventure will involve the outdoors and food.

On Sunday afternoon we’ll be chased by orcs up a mountain (I’m not quite sure yet WHY this is happening, I’ll post about it when I figure it out.) I’m the game master and keeper of the food and water. Kids will have to complete challenges to gain access to said food and water.

Challenge examples:

  • Find a plant that you now the name of. (This can be used many times! It will become harder and harder as they run through the names of plants they know.)
  • Find a rock that you know the name of. (Kodiak only has 1 type of rocks in the area where we’re going.)
  • Pick up 5 (or 2 or 3) pieces of trash.
  • Tie a specialized knot

I decided I didn’t want to make it at ALL about school–but if you wanted to apply this game to a classroom you could  easily substitute vocab or multiplication tables as challenges. I’m going to list them out in a small notebook to bring with me in my bag.

When the Orcs get too close ( i.e. my army starts dragging their feet) we’ll have to battle. I think throwing stones at a mark or seeing who can throw stones the farthest might be how we decide if we defeat the enemy or not. We might also choose pushki (cow parsnip) sticks and see if they break when struck against an orc (tree or rock). I’ll have to make some of it up as I go along.

Along with the food, I’m going to bring a pack of cards as another way to decide outcomes along the way. I watched a couple of Matera’s videos and noticed that he employs playing cards for different classroom/game tasks.

Complaints will magically suck the sweetness out of the cookies and turn them into dog treats dog (this is a side quest of mine: eliminating complaints in my house).

The quote below is one that struck me in my reading this week, highlighting, again, that gamification is one of the tricks (tools) we teachers have at our disposal to help students learn how to learn.

Though the rhetoric of gamification claims ties to intrinsic motivation, any attempt to cause one behavior (i.e., learning) through other means (i.e., game elements) is the very definition of extrinsic motivation.

“At the heart of [the debate about the value of gamification] is a deep philosophical question about whether we should engage students where they are, or expect them to come with a well of intrinsic motivation. Like many questions in education, the answer is not either/or. A good teacher judiciously moves back and forth between tricks to elicit student interest and space for students to motivate themselves, all with the long-term goal of building intrinsic motivation” (Toyama, 2015).



Toyama, K. (2015 October 29). The Looming Gamification of Higher Ed. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: on October 28, 2016.


Hi Theresa,
I found that creating a story helped me get ideas flowing. I came up with the theme and challenges after I had an idea for a story I liked.

You asked about games to use in the classroom, a really easy review game is to break the class into groups of 4 and have them take out one piece of blank paper per group. Ask a review question. One person in the group (with input from the others if necessary) writes the answer on the paper. When the group is done they raise their hands. A point is given to the fastest group with the right answer. The writer rotates with each question asked.

When I taught Spanish my students LOVED Pictionary and Jeopardy. I have some tips on how to manage those games and minimize prep, if you’re interested I’ll send you some resources.

Hi Gerald,
Unlike you I found creating a story essential to my being able to come up with other elements. I think this highlights that there are multiple ways to implement. Matera is also a “story-inspired” guy. I’d love to hear what your students think as you implement. There was a math teacher at our local high school who flipped his classroom and implemented some elements of gamification, but he gave it up before a semester was over because his students (and their parents) gave him so much negative feedback. I wonder if it was the flipping or the particular elements that were poorly received. At any rate starting small avoids that awful feeling of investing so much time and energy and having a lesson or unit bomb.

Keep us posted!

Hi Genevieve,
What a great summary of this week’s readings. There was so much information, I was feeling overwhelmed and only really used one element: story. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!



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