Structuring Engagement via Gamification – Episode 3

Ever wanted to be a hero? And did you picture yourself being one on YouTube? Maybe – many people do – but probably not in the same way that you now can be…

Not all gamification is well received. YouTube’s recent decision to gamify the ways in which people interact with user generated content has been controversial to say the least. As the video below reveals, participants gain points when they ‘add captions or subtitles to a video’, ‘report inappropriate videos accurately’, and share ‘knowledge with others’. The system involves levelling up, unlockable content, and various other achievements and rewards.

Super6 by David Krieger.jpg
Super6 by David Krieger (CC BY 2.0)

One doesn’t necessarily need to go beyond this upload to witness the announcement’s widespread negative reception: at the time of writing, with almost 3 million views, the above video had garnered 25,559 thumbs up and 846,168 thumbs down. The material YouTube Heroes has inspired ranges from associations with fascism to slightly more bemused parodies. While this is a fascinating example – and one we’ll definitely be coming back to – this post is not so much interested in whether or not the initiative should be condemned or applauded, but rather the particular mode of gamification it entails.

YouTube’s fraught endeavour here is an example of structural gamification, where game design elements are used to frame a user’s engagement in order to encourage more of it in some way. This form of gamified media differs considerably from the more ‘integrated’ game elements of content gamification, where media is itself transformed in ways that enable users to ‘play’ with it. Karl Kapp provides a useful explanation of the distinction between structural and content gamification, and an example of the latter can be found in our conversation about the eLearning module ‘The Story of Hemp’ in Episode 2.

20150612_221652.jpgContinuing our strategy of introducing ourselves by focusing an early episode on how we’ve applied gamification in our own work, this week we shift to Adam’s development of a ‘Tiffits’ system in his teaching. The following episode was filmed shortly before Adam would implement this system in an attempt to inspire more creativity and online activity from his undergraduate and postgraduate student cohorts. We will return to the actual outcome of this system later on (spoiler: it didn’t spark the controversy and backlash of YouTube Heroes), but for now here’s a glimpse of planning the structural gamification of university education in action…

Please feel free to get in touch with Adam with any questions and feedback via @digitalzones or

Thanks for watching, and happy gamifying!

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