Gamifying Wikis

You've probably heard the word gamification by now; I noticed several sessions on the topic at CCCCs. It's also more or less the subject of Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken, which I just managed to finish reading a few days ago. I intend to review the book in an upcoming podcast segment for Armchair Arcade Radio, but suffice it to say this book is a must-read if you're interested in "big picture" stuff concerning videogames. For now though, I want to think about how gamification and some of McGonigal's observations could improve wikis.


I have to admit, I haven't done a survey of wiki engines to see if any of my ideas have already been implemented. Indeed, I'd be shocked if they haven't, so if you know of existing projects, please direct me toward them.

In a nutshell, I'm thinking of a wiki engine or at least a good plugin that would integrate some of the achievement systems of sites like foursquare and reddit. Specifically, I want a wiki that allows registered users to collected points, badges, and achievements for various wiki activities. I know Wikipedia already has userboxes and barnstars, but what I have in mind is slightly different.

One of the big problems with wiki projects in the classroom is that most of the work gets done by a small group of students while the rest don't contribute much or at all. What I'd like to do is have a built-in system that would encourage people to participate by awarding points like foursquare does. Foursquare's points are brilliantly designed to encourage people to get out and explore, but also to contribute back to the system. I think this could easily be adapted for wikis, so that you get points for doing the following:

  • 5 points for viewing a page for the first time
  • 5 points for editing a page for the first time
  • 5 points for adding a new page (assuming it's valid and stays up)
  • 1 point for editing and/or viewing a page again on a given day, increasing by one point per edit/view

Now what I want to steal from reddit is inspired by their April Fool's prank called reddit mold. The idea there was to let people give you a gag gift (it actually did have some negative effects on your interface). My idea is probably more like Farmville and other social games' emphasis on virtual gift-giving. Anyway, as you accrue points as mentioned above, you get a certain amount of free "gift points" that you can't use yourself, but can give to other people.

Students could give these free points to boost up a friend who isn't doing so well, or just to show their appreciation. Of course, you'd probably want to forbid them selling them, especially if you plan to use the points for grading somewhere down the line.

The last piece is rewarding students who give their points for the first time. This would encourage them not to horde their points, and also to spread them out. It'd be interesting to experiment with giving them points if they donate a certain amount, or if they donate to more people. I don't think it'd be very thrilling if everyone just gave everybody else one point. It'd be more thrilling if you saw big gifts going out for exceptional stuff.

Another idea is to borrow some ideas from Chore Wars. The idea there is to set up tasks and award points for their completion, trying to add unnecessary obstacles to make it fun (i.e., make a bed without anyone seeing you). Maybe each student could set up special tasks that way and then award the points to whoever completed it successfully. Of course, the teacher could do the same thing.

Anyway, that's it for now. Please let me know what you think.


It already has been implemented by Wikia. See for example:

Wow, I so got scooped with this...! Yuck. Guess that's what I get for thinking I actually had an original idea.

Anyway, this does look amazing:

Help Page for Achievements

Here's the announcement blog post about it.

I've been Tweeting with a guy about its use at Vault Wiki. Apparently, it does result in some nonsense (people just trying to get points), but great for special projects.

It would be great if it worked, and maybe in the right context with a system for social assessment it could—like allowing thumbs up and thumbs down other users' contributions. But it seems like it would take a lot of oversight and effort to referee the game.

Assessment in collaborative writing has always been an issue, too. And that's my problem with the Wikia/Fallout Wiki Achievements. You can count edits, I suppose, or even the size of edits in kilobytes as a form of assessment, but you end up missing a lot of the (co)labor that might go into writing an article, for example, the discussion on an article talk page (if this is where students are doing that collaborative work). I didn't see achievements for edits other than on article pages. Of course, you could give points for edits on talk pages as well. But then you're back to the problem of people contributing to get points and the need for someway to judge the quality of contributions.

Still, finding effective ways to motivate writing and meaningful talk about writing is something I'd like to get better at, and I'd like to find a way to assess student work on wikis that requires less of me reading through history and talk pages. Right now, whatever the project, like many of us, I ask students to account for their own activities, decisions, and learning, and that works fairly well.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!