Some critics argue that gamification is distracting and creates too many bells and whistles in the learning environment. Others, however, argue that when games are well thought out and designed from an intentional approach, they can be very powerful for learners. For example, some researchers argue, “under the right circumstances and with the right design elements, gamification is not a red herring, a flash in the pan, nor a fifth column, but rather can represent a significant tool in a growing instructional toolbox” (Cruz & Penley, 2014, p. 9).

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Hence, while designers and educators should not narrow gamification approaches to one tool, they can greatly enhance the learning environment when using a focused and structured approach. Docugames may be one gamification tool that educators and instructional designers should consider.  Docugames are tools that help educators teach their students about historic events (Zastrow, 2016). They also provide opportunities for role-playing and practicing scenarios or skills (Zastrow, 2016). 

For HS professionals, this gamification tool can be integrated in an optimal learning method by teaching HS professionals about significant changes in the HS field over the years, such as the momentous events surrounding deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness in the 1970s. Docugames can help students engage in a fun learning activity that familiarizes them with historic events associated with deinstitutionalization. At the same time, these students will be gaining awareness about very serious issues affecting populations served in the field of mental health.

The tool meets 21st century learning goals by allowing students to interact with characters in role-play simulations that are real, applicable, and believable (Ranj, 2012). Hence, rather than engage in digital games where characters seem surreal, overly-fictitious, and disconnected with the learners, the Docugames tool offers students an authentic and real-life learning experience. It could also be used as a case study, as the game allows students to choose interventions (Ranj, 2012).

To get started, instructors and course designers should create a timeline of events that should be covered in Docugames. By having this content ready, there will be little scrambling while setting up the gaming tool.  Fortunately, this tool requires little sophisticated hardware and is very easy to set up (Ranj, 2012).  The sources below may help provide additional information about how to get started.

Note: I included a picture of my son having a great time at the amusement park in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. This day at the park was very memorable to us because we realized that our son would be too big for the "kiddie rides" next year. We often think of gamification the same way. That is, we think we are too old for games or we think the learning environment is too serious to have fun. Yet, when thoughtfully done, gaming can create the most memorable and powerful learning experiences in the virtual environment. Docugames consist of one way for adults to have fun while learning. What tools would you use to promote fun and engaging learning experiences for adults?

Sources for more Information:

Grace, L. (2011). Gamifying archives, a study of docugames as a preservation medium. Computer Games. Retrieved from

Khopper. (2012). Videogames in critical contexts. Docu-games: Creating thoughtful gameplay.  WordPress. Retrieved from


Cruz, L. & Penley, J.M. (2014). Too cool for school? The effects of gamification in an

advanced interdisciplinary course.  Journal of Teaching and Learning with

            Technology, 3 (2), 1-11.

Ranj, B.V. (2012). Docu-games. Retrieved from

Zastrow, J. (2016). Gamification meets meaningful play: An inside look. Computers in

            Libraries. 36-10, 12-15.