What’s the difference between Gamification, Gamified Assessment and Game-Based Assessment?

Gamification, which has been defined as “the use of game design elements in nongame contexts” (Deterding, Sicart, Nacke, O’Hara, & Dixon, 2011, p. 1) presents one of the newest ways to improve on traditional assessment formats. The application of game elements to assessments can be split into three major categories; Gamification, Gamified Assessments, and Game-based assessments. Each method attempts to improve on traditional assessment formats, but they employ game elements in their own way by varying where they’re implemented, and for what purpose.

Gamification in assessment contexts involves adding game elements throughout the recruitment and selection process, in order to increase its attractiveness and ease of use, thereby increasing the engagement and motivation of the individuals completing the assessment. Empirical evidence suggests that Gamification enhances performance on tasks, and it is believed to do so by providing external motivators in the form of game elements which increase engagement like points, badges, leaderboards, levels, challenges, rewards, etc. Gamification has found its application in activities of some of the well-established methods like Assessment Centers and Development Centers. However, the effect of Gamification on intrinsic motivation is less clear, since the implementation of isolated game elements does not seem to make observable changes in intrinsic motivation and applicant wellbeing (Mekler, Brühlmann, Tuch, & Opwis, 2015; Sailer, Hense, Mayr, & Mandl, 2017).

Gamified Assessments – the basics

Gamified Assessments go one step further from just a simple inclusion of game elements. They provide one way in which a more immersive gamified environment can be created. In Gamified Assessments, the psychometric properties of the traditional assessment are unchanged, but the application of game elements is used to give the assessment the look and feel of a game, clothing the assessment in a more playful context. When done correctly, this approach has the potential to counteract negative applicant reactions, increasing engagement, as well as reducing test anxiety and mitigating cheating behaviours (Attali & Arieli-Attali, 2015; Collmus & Landers, 2017; Mavridis & Tsiatsos, 2016; Mekler, Brühlmann, Opwis, & Tuch, 2013; Ramsay, 2017). However, one of the major considerations with these types of assessments is ensuring good alignment between the game elements and the aims of the assessment, as there is a possibilty of motivating behaviors which are inadequate for the purpose of the assessment (Belland, 2012; Hughes & Lacy, 2016; Kim, 2015; Mislevy et al. 2012). This is, however, where Game-Based Assessments come in.

If the actions rewarded by game elements do not correspond to the actions that are beneficial for the assessment, then there is a possibility of motivating actions that are unsuited for the purposes of the assessment. This is one of the areas where Game Based Assessments provide the answer.

Game-based assessments – the answer?

Game-based assessments (GBAs) change the core of the assessment model, harnessing the full scope of game-thinking, not just for better applicant reactions, but also to capitalise on the inherent psychometric properties of games. Games are well suited for assessment purposes as they naturally present players with a stream of choices during gameplay. Recording both player choices and the game’s paradata (i.e. data about how the player arrived at their choice; Stieger & Reips, 2010) allows GBAs to analyse information that often cannot be captured by traditional psychological assessments (Landers, 2015; Shute & Ventura, 2013). While Gamified Assessments present traditional assessment in a new format, GBAs rebuild the assessment as a game. This means that in GBAs, a candidate’s interactions with game elements becomes an integral part of the assessment model, allowing for a more effective unification of game elements’ potential effects with the aims of the assessment.

The application of game elements in assessment processes provides a cutting-edge way of improving on traditional assessment methods and reinventing the candidate experience. However, in order to properly harness its potential, gamification needs to be applied in a deliberate and knowledgeable manner, or else efforts may even prove to be counterproductive.

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