Editor’s Note: As part of building a community around gameful learning, we’re asking students and instructors to write about their experiences within these classrooms. First up, one of our new GAME Ambassadors (more on this soon) shares his advice for students new to gameful thinking.

A bit about Alex: He is a freshman from Riverside, Connecticut. He has not yet decided on a major, but he is considering political science and computer science as possibilities.  When not in class, Alex sings for the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club.

Alex’s Thoughts on Gameful Learning

This may sound obvious, but it helps if you think of the course itself as a type of game. In this model, there is nothing against acting in whatever way gets you the most points (except for cheating). Game the system. It’s encouraged!  

I was always taught to reject this thinking. I was told that the “pure” pursuit of knowledge was the only thing I should be thinking about while absorbing information in a class. To an extent, my teachers and professors were absolutely right, but in another, they were neglecting the fact that our education system operates not only as a space for free exploration but as a filter in a meritocracy, with the weight of career expectations pressing down on those in it.

My advice to students new to a gameful course would be to set aside your moral problems with “gaming” a class which is supposed to be purely about learning, and give it a shot. When I did that, I was able to see that the course structure inspired me to put forth a larger amount of effort into learning the curriculum, which resulted in me actually learning the material better and enjoying the class more than I might have in a traditional course. Additionally, the act of “gaming” the system taught me important skills like scheduling, time management, and managing team dynamics.

There’s something liberating about this model in that it doesn’t force your desire to succeed in a course and your professor’s feelings about grading into conflict. Have fun, enjoy the odd kind of freedom that comes with such an overtly controlled environment, learn to be a rational actor in the game, and hopefully you’ll learn not just what the curriculum has to offer, but what you can achieve when asked to “throw yourself into a game.”


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