One misconception about Game Inspired Designs, gamification, and/ot GBL is that it is just goofing around. The fear is that the educational elements are sacrificed for “fun”. Done poorly that can be the case. Part of the problem is that the easy parts of gamification to implement are the cruddy low level applications. When done well though game inspiration can layer an additional element of engagement onto already meaningful activities. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago when my wife and I went to TopGolf to celebrate or anniversary.

At it’s core golf is a game that requires repeating a limited number of skills. Golfers need to have a repeatable driving motion, iron motion, short game, and putting skills. There are variations and creativity and strategy is involved but to improve at the game a golfer really needs to focus in those core skills. Practice rounds will help but to really improve the golfer needs to put time in at a driving range. As a 20 something a trip to the driving range was enjoyable but hitting anything but the driver as far as it would go was cumbersome. Even then after a dozen shots or so the driver was monotonous. When Tiger Woods was at his peak stories about his tireless hours of practice filled the Golf Channels. His superhuman ability to overcome the drudgery of this practice was part of what made him special. Practicing skills is important and will lead to growth. In and of itself the practice is meaningful but a layer of additional gamification engagement and ‘fun’ will allow more practice and skill growth!

Enter TopGolf.

This ‘driving range’ gamifies golf practice! The one we went to had three floors and we took a booth on the third floor. This was our view!

Each of those circles is a 20-30 yard target out in the driving range. TopGolf had about 15 different games to choose from but they all were a variation on hitting the ball as close to the center of the targets as possible. I dont know how TopGolf does this but each ball is electronically monitored and when the player hits the ball it can be connected back to a score. The process is less interesting to me than the gamified philosophy being used. My wife and I went to this range at 1:00 on a Monday and the third floor was mostly full. The range opened at 10am and stayed open until 10pm often requiring reservations. People are almost literally lining up and paying a rather generous fee to practice the dull repetative tasks that Tiger Woods was lauded as Super Human for putting up with! And everone there was laughing and enjoying their day!

The criticism of games in education is that it is a distraction from doing the ‘real’ and ‘important’ work of the classroom. Gamified educators know that adding layers of engagement don’t distract from the work but enhance the work. Fun doesn’t always mean goofing off. In some cases it can move work from good to great!