What Is It?
Gamification is the basic idea of using gaming elements in non-gaming contexts. You can find in it apps like Four-Square, which allows users to check into locations, gain points, titles and badges, turning mundane check-ins into fun competitions between friends.
Gamification has been successful for corporations like Starbucks (loyalty rewards) and Nike+ (community rewards). Since Starbucks started their My Starbucks Rewards program in 2009, 80,000 new members join weekly and 1 in 3 customers pay with their Starbucks card. Nike+ uses a social community to help people stay motivated and challenged while exercising. Users can track their activities, set goals, access training tips, receive improvement tips, challenge friends and share successes.
Gamification in Academia
At the University of Michigan, Assistant Professor Cliff Lampe uses gamification to help his undergraduate seminars in the School of Information. Students accomplish goals, interact in guilds and can skip tests by creating artistic forms of assessment (think infographics and the like). In his video interview with Slashdot, Lampe states that teaching large class lectures can be just as boring for the professor as it is for the students, which is part of the reason he added gamification to his syllabus.
Peter Nonacs, a University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) professor of Behavioral Ecology, provided his students with a gamified exam for his Game Theory midterm. Students were encouraged to collaborate to provide the best answers possible, by almost any means: “only violations of state or federal criminal law such as kidnapping my dog, blackmail, or threats of violence were out of bounds.” According to the professor, the students spent the week leading up to the exam living Game Theory; when the time finally arrived, students joined together to answer the single exam question.
Ways to Incorporate Gamification
There are many ways you can incorporate gamification into your classroom or library. Ed Tech Magazine posted a gamification infographic in late 2012 with several examples of ways teachers can “gamify” their lessons. The infographic points to using games like Dungeons and Dragons to explore probability, Bridge Builder to test theories about systems or even having students create their own games about a particular part of history to not only have fun, but also to learn more about the event.
There’s also a “5 Easy Steps” guide on Classroom-Aid to help gamify Higher-Ed.
Will this work in the library?
Several university libraries, like Oregon State University and Boise State University, have used SCVNGR in their libraries, as a way to help introduce students to the campus libraries in a fun, interactive way. SCVNGR is a geo-location based application where users participate in treks and challenges to gain points and rewards.
Another example of gamification in libraries comes from Running in the Hall Limited. Librarygame is a gamification platform for libraries; as they stated in their blog, “we make a bit of software that interfaces with your existing LMS, and adds a social discovery and gaming layer to the library interface”. Librarygame has two offshoots, Lemontree for academic libraries and Orangetree for public. The University of Huddersfield implemented Lemontree with their library ILS. The program makes a game of checking out items from the library as well as simply being at the library; users level up their library cards to achieve badges and rewards.
Your Mobile App Would be the Perfect Medium
Since you already know your library app is being used on a mobile device, why not add a gamification layer to your library app? In 2013, 32% of mobile users were playing games on their mobile devices. By making a game of library use (awarding points for checking out books or checking into the library) you can activate a reader’s natural desire to compete in games and gain achievements.
Want to read more about gamification in libraries? Check out Games in Libraries: Essays on Using Play to Connect and Instruct, edited by Breanne A. Kirsch.