Week 10: Story in Gamification?

In my gamer experience, I usually don’t know or, to be honest, cared about a storyline or narrative in games.  My motivation to play a game was because of the game play, or in other words, game mechanics.  To my knowledge, there is no story to Tetris.  It’s a great puzzle game, that by 2016 sold 495 million copies and ranked number one in sales (Tassi, 2016), and is rated number one in the 50 Best Video Games of All Time by TIME (Peckham, et al., 2016).  Minecraft is another game that has no story, but has sold over 106 million copies and is ranked number two in sales (Tassi, 2016), and is rated number 6 in the 50 Best Video Games of All Time by TIME (Peckham, et al., 2016).  These are quite amazing feats for having no story or narrative built into the games.

In his blog, Gabe Zichermann shares that one of the main stumbling blocks for game developers working in gamification is the story, and it can be frustrating.  (2012) He relates that there is no need to have a story when the key story is the user’s own progression to mastery through game play.  Veteran Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who helped create Paper Mario series, asked for story elements to be left out of their new game soon to be developed and released because he believed that the gameplay elements were what players really wanted. (Rose, 2012) According to a survey done in Club Nintendo over the Super Paper Mario game, it was revealed that not even 1% said the story was interesting.

This begs the question, do games really need stories?  When researching how to gamify a class, John McCarthy describes how gamification can boost student engagement and provide powerful differentiation opportunities to support achievement so all can learn. (2016) There is no mention of developing a story or narrative to begin gamification in the class.  I believe that it is not a necessity to incorporate a story or narrative in gamification, and that game elements and mechanics will be engaging enough for students.

In this regard, I believe that our gamification rubric should not include a story/narrative category.


McCarthy, John. (2016) Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/gamifying-your-class-john-mccarthy

Peckham, Matt; Eadicicco, Lisa; Fitzpatrick, Alex; Vella, Matt; Pullen, John P.; Raab, Josh; Grossman, Lev. (2016) The 50 Best Video Games of All Time. TIME. Retrieved from http://time.com/4458554/best-video-games-all-time/

Rose, Mike. (2012) Miyamoto wonders: Is story really necessary when gameplay will do? Gamasutra. Retrieved from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/182672/Is_story_really_necessary_when_gameplay_will_do_questions_Miyamoto.php#.ULjPYqVYMeM

Tassi, Paul. (2016). Here Are The Five Best-Selling Video Games Of All Time. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/07/08/here-are-the-five-best-selling-video-games-of-all-time/#5fef11292dee

Zichermann, Gabe. (2012). How Important is Story in Gamification? Retrieved from http://www.gamification.co/2012/11/30/how-important-is-story-in-gamification/

4 thoughts on “Week 10: Story in Gamification?

  1. Gerald- That is a interesting fact about Tetris and Monecraft. I used to play Tetris when I had time and I too don’t think about the story line when I am playing a game. I think this is interesting, Gabe Zichermann relates that there is no need to have a story when the key story is the user’s own progression to mastery through game play. I think a lot of players don’t care for the story line. I know my husband skips that part if there is one. This has made me rethink about the story line on our rubric. You made a good point! Thanks for sharing that.


  2. Gerald,

    In your first sentence you brought out that you really don’t care about storyline or narrative. I think you are making a good point, in that I need to reconsider different player types and what does or does not motivate them as learners in class.

    One thing about minecraft is that it has the potential for being used to express comprehension of a story / narrative students are reading about. Maybe the story or narrative is for bringing together a theme in a classroom. However, this is no small task and teachers, in my view, need time to develop this aspect as he/she tries out different gameplay elements and mechanics.

    One thing I notice is that students who are using a reading program, called Imagine Learning, are filling in skills they missed and that the badges earned toward playing games that practice words they need review on. This is motivational—but would be more effective if there were units of theme that tied the different section together—especially for those game player types that do learn from the emotional and social aspects in a story line.


  3. Gerald,

    I agree that in many cases, games don’t need an overall storyline. I have played Minecraft before, and it definitely doesn’t have a story. I enjoy that game because it allows me to explore and find new materials and learn how to build new things. However, I think if there was a story involved, I might enjoy it more for having a purpose to all of the exploration. I don’t really play it much anymore, mostly because there is only so much time I can devote to digging a deep hole, especially if my character dies multiple times in the process.

    I am currently playing the game Skyrim. While this does have a main storyline, I actually have more fun when I work on the smaller, non main-story, side quests. They aren’t complex, and can be easily understood, where the main story has a lot of aspects that are harder to keep track of all at once. I can get halfway through a game sometimes, and forget many important aspects about the main story, so when I finally finish I often don’t completely understand the importance of what I accomplished. I can see how it would be possible to gamify your class without a storyline, because you would still be using game mechanics.


  4. You raised some very valid points about story. I have been struggling to come up with a story as I teach 3rd grade all subjects. I think a game’s story might intrigue or motivate some students, as with all components of gamification there needs to be more than one way to motivate the different needs fo our students. I am hoping I can start with XP and badges, then games/challenges and maybe eventually create a story.


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