What is the benefit of gamification and what is the cost?

Many people have been trained to take learning seriously – to suffer through it – to “tough it out”. This often leads to negative emotions which results in reduced motivation and a diminished receptivity to information. Most of us realise that learning should be fun if possible, and that removing negative experience and promoting positive experience helps.

Edutainment has caught on as a concept. Gamification is an attempt to improve the balance of positive experiences to negative experiences and perhaps encourage people to learn with a “lighter heart”. Fair enough! Not a bad idea. Just a bit expensive on time.

But I believe there is nothing wrong with, and perhaps something good about, encouraging people, particularly young people, that work is part of life and can be constructive and empowering. We work, not to be entertained, but to achieve something or acquire something. Edutainment, for me, will always be a weak concept because it’s never going to entertain me as much as a good movie, a game of golf or a good conversation with close friends over dinner.

One can remove negative emotions directly but it requires greater creativity. For instance reducing boredom, frustration, confusion, self-castigation, opportunity-cost, etc. The truth is that little humans (babies and young children) LOVE to learn. They find PROGRESS inherently SATISFYING. And so do you. Very young people are very good, compared to adults, at not beating themselves up (negative emotion removed) when they don’t learn something quickly or the first time.

Progress makes work rewarding. That progress must be honest / real, measurable and relevant.  This focus allows us to eliminate the cost of gamification without losing the benefit. And as for learning with a light heart – well that is a choice that each of us must make – to be kind or painful to ourselves. You can use your learning as a way to detect how kind you are to yourself and thus improve over time. To be kind to others is a virtue. To be kind to yourself is a necessity because kindness from others can be given but will not turn to happiness unless you are first kind to yourself.