For art and creative thinking to use gamification methods in order to boost science teaching, we must acknowledge the basic principles behind gamification. In brief, gamification means taking the fun, motivating elements from games and applying them into a different environment, something not related to games.

Gamification is all about motivation. Yu-Kai Chou’s gamification framework called Octalysis (2012) describes the eight core drives behind human motivation. Instead of focusing on how to complete a task as quickly as possible, Octalysis is a human-focused design that acknowledges our humane qualities: Feelings, insecurities and reasons to want or not to want to do something. Gamification can help optimize people for their feelings, motivation and engagement instead of forcing them to complete tasks simply because they are required to do so.

But how is gamification related to STEAM? How can art and creative thinking use the methods of gamification to boost science teaching? Not all gamification methods are useful in the context. This leads us to the question of which gamification methods use or encourage creative thinking and which of them can be used to boost teaching, especially in STEM fields?

There are different ways to group gamification methods depending on the approach. To give some food for thought, gamification methods could be divided into four categories. These categories are in no way exhaustive and they do not contain all possible gamification methods.

The first category is progression-based methods, which are meant to show and map the progression and goals of an activity. These could include elements that are commonly found in games such as tutorials, challenges, certificates and rewards. All these methods give feedback to the player about their progression, how they are doing and what they have achieved. Art and creative thinking come in when visualizing these elements. Constant and immediate feedback is one of the cornerstones of games and gamification and with art, we can make it visual and easy to understand but with a single glance.

The second category focuses on gamification methods that require brainwork. These elements draw out our intellectual or logical attention and include curiosity, mystery, strategy and purpose. The concept of learning and gaining new skills falls into this category. Art can help facilitate these gamification methods into the activity by visualizing and piquing our interest. If the activity has meaning to it, it can become a powerful way to motivate.

The third category of gamification methods offers the player a frame and tools for harnessing their creativity and imagination. In a sandbox, almost anything can happen, but it still has boards on each side. Offering the player tools for creativity gives them also the chance to use these tools to create, explore or tell stories. This can help them to use their imagination without mental constraints inside the sandbox.

Gamification methods that involve more than one person also deserve their own category. The social aspect includes collaboration and teamwork, but also competition. Social elements can be combined with almost any form of art and, naturally, some forms of art are fundamentally social.

Not all gamification methods motivate everyone. It takes time and thought to find the most useful elements and the way to facilitate them into the activity. Gamification is not a silver bullet, but a set of tools and tools usually require some expertise on how to use them. Another way to divide gamification methods in relation to art could be to consider which of them are or activate into direct action, motivate to take action or directly support the activity. Depending on the approach, there is much to be found in gamification to help interface arts and science.

Written by Minna Porvari, XAMK



Yu-Kai Chou, The Octalysis Framework for Gamification & Behavorial Design, 2012.