Gamifying Life?

Unit 5 had us watch two TED Talk videos about online gaming which were both interesting in their own way. The first one, except for the fact that the presenter is about fifteen years older and much more articulate than my son, could have been given by him. So many of the points he makes about online, social gaming I have witnessed by watching my oldest and he meets and interacts with people online through games. He’s been invited to weddings (in Germany–he didn’t go, because hello, he works at a supermarket and doesn’t make the kind of money that would let him travel the world…yet) and has shared in the real-world triumphs and challenges of people he’s only met virtually. He’s talked about so many of these people so much that I feel like I know them.

The second talk was a homeschooled boy (who again, is more articulate than my 19-year-old son, darn it) who gave a truly impressive talk about the connections he’s made through online gaming and what he’s learned about WWII through one. This second talk was the one that really got me thinking about the ways that gaming can and has been changing the ways things can be done in our increasingly online world…how life is being gamifyed.

I actually got in on the gamification of learning several years ago when I was a private school junior high teacher. Through a BOCES program and a grant, I and several other junior high teachers brought our students into the Islands of Enlightenment virtual environment space for education. The original program was one based on Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl in which students virtually explored and interacted with the building and neighborhood where Anne and her family were in hiding during the second world war.

Here’s a brief video introduction to the project, or you can visit the website here. I brought two classes with me to explore and learn in this virtual environment, and they had a great time.

The second stage of the project moved us into medieval Europe. I only was able to work with one group of students with this one, because our school closed shortly after its implementation. The following (much longer video) goes into more detail about the three OpenSim projects that the Islands of Enlightenment group went on to create. The third project pulled a local history aspect into the program, focusing in on the Darwin Martin House designed by Frank Llyod Wright right here in Western New York.

I have to admit that between this class and looking back at all that I did as part of this group, I am more than tempted to get into contact with the project coordinator and see how he feels about collaborating with libraries…

Another aspect of life that has been unexpectedly gamified has been writing. Again as a teacher I brought my students into the crazy world of NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program (there’s an adult one too here) where authors write mainly on their own but are part of a larger online community as they do so. Writers can be as social (or not) as they choose throughout the process; I have to say that the more involved in the community you are the more fun the whole process is. Writers can earn badges along the way, compete in Word Wars and writing sprints, and join in a worldwide race for the “win” at the end of the month. Libraries have already gotten into NaNo, by becoming “Come Write In” spaces and sponsoring programming based around it each November.

The online community Storium has taken the idea of social writing even further by making storytelling an online multiplayer game. There’s an online tutorial here that explains things much better than I ever could. Storium started as a Kickstarter campaign, at which point they discussed creating a more kid-friendly version for use in schools and libraries; other than a “playtest” for schools from 2015 here, though, I’m not sure where that idea stands at this point. I think that as it is right now it has potential for use with library teen groups, at the very least.

What do you think? Do you play video games? Have you found other fun ways to gamify things, for yourself or for your libraries? Tell us about it in the comments!