How to get Started? / by Tyler Wood

When beginning a class design change to gamification, I think it best to use the backward design method. Starting at the end, or goal, of your course will allow you to figure out where you are headed, so you will be able to make smart choices in the design of your course. 

Once you have established your goals for your course, then you can start deciding what kind of gamified environment you want to use. There are two main ways to gamify your class - video game-based learning or a 'multiplayer classroom', to borrow from Lee Sheldon. Below is a link to some great resources for getting started in gamification. 

The video game-based learning will consist of using, at least in part, video games to teach concepts in the classroom. Ananth Pai is a great example of this approach. You can see from the video that he has chosen many different games for each child to play. This is where backward design comes in handy, deciding what your goals are helps you decide which games will get you there. This may take some work finding the right games. Mr. Pai has used off-the-shelf games on laptops and Nintendo DSs for his class, so there is no need to be a computer wizard or code breaker for setting up a class this way. It will take some time going through the games, trying them, and getting feedback from your students on which ones were liked and which ones weren't, however. It is important to keep an open conversation with your students for good feedback from them to better serve their interests. This is differentiation, after all. 

If you are not already in the gaming world, you will need to find some games that will work for your class. As mentioned, decide what standards or skills you want your students to learn from games first, that might help you narrow down the games because there are an overwhelming amount of games out there. Below is a link to some games that might help you in your class.

If you are not finding what you want, are computer savvy, or have too much time on your hands you can create your own games. Remember that this is not a quick fix or a simple solution, but you will most likely be learning a new skill and getting exactly what you want in a game. Below is a link to more information about building your own video games.

The 'multiplayer classroom' is a way of using game-based learning without the video games by creating a role playing-style game within the classroom. This would consist of designing a game that the students participate in as the curriculum. Unlike a video game that has been designed previously, you would have to create the game itself. There are two things to consider when designing. 

   1. The game dynamics

   2. The game mechanics

The game dynamics are based on the storyline of the game. The game mechanics are the rules of the game. Both are important, but you can lean more heavily on one or the other, depending on your comfort level. Mr. Matera is a good example of how to run a 'multiplayer classroom'. He focuses on the game mechanics, though he points out that a colleague of his is depending on game dynamics for her class' motivation. When designing this kind of class it is important to remember that "well-designed games provide integrated assessment and contextual feedback: they are good at keeping players motivated and in flow; they incorporate established pedagogical techniques including scaffolding instruction, variable ratio reinforcement, and social learning" (Sheldon, 2010, loc. 1145). The game is more than just a story arc or points and badges with the common theme. As Lee Sheldon points out in his book "The Multiplayer Classroom", this method is never really finished. The class will always be changing based on constant feedback from observation and student responses and direct feedback. One of the benefits, he mentions, is that when the classroom is a game, it offers a relaxed environment where students are more willing to offer feedback, which is great for maintaining a motivating gaming experience. 

One thing to remember is that you do not need to gamify the entire year right out of the gate. Try making a lesson into a game for starters and see how it goes. Then you can build a larger and larger construct over time. If you have a framework that is working, then you can simply add to it until you are comfortable building a year-long game for your class. This is what Mr. Matera mentions at the beginning of the video. He created a unit that was gamified, and he saw great results. Then he decided to create the year-long version. 


Davis, V. (2014, March). Gamification in education. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Sheldon, L. (2011, June). The multiplayer Classroom: designing coursework as a game. Engage Learning. Kindle Version. Retrieved from