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Dr. Zac Fitz-Walter is a gamification designer who uses game design techniques and principles to help make tasks more engaging and motivating. He’s applied gamification to many different areas including training, education, health, wellbeing, business and HR. Zac leveled up his education in 2015 with a Ph.D. in designing effective gamification for mobile applications. He has taught a range of university subjects over the last decade, including gamification, game design and app development. Zac speaks at conferences and with companies around the world and consults and develops game-like systems for industry, government and research projects. He also runs an annual scavenger hunt and loves playing board games.
Zac’s days start with coffee! What comes after can be quite varied, as a consultant he could be working with a client from his or their office, traveling to speak or run workshops, or even writing for a blog post or a book.
He had once successfully built a gamified app as a research project to engage students and they decided to expand it to the whole university. However, they had quite a limited budget and for the first couple of days, it didn’t quite work! His main learning, after getting out of panic mode, was to have processes in place to deal with problems. This is because their main situation was due to technical problems. However, remember that unless you get started and perhaps have a few failures, you’ll never get it right!
A great challenge he’s working on is how to make the roads safer through drivers. The project spins around using gamification to get learner drivers to have more diverse learning experiences before they go to the real world for the first time. It’s important to remember that it’s not permitted to drive and use a mobile phone, which is the one that has the app! So it’s focusing on characteristics of the context that the driver is experiencing and those that they haven’t experienced.
Zac’s gamification design framework has a path, which starts with looking at the problem you want to solve through gamification and understanding it really well, along with the objectives you would want to achieve. The next steps are exploration, designing for the players and playtesting! We can find out more in his 400-page thesis… or at gamificationgeek.com.
He thinks a best practice is not to jump directly into solution mode. He’s seen how it’s really important to do a lot of research before, to understand the problem deeply, to understand the future users as much a possible and even find out if gamification is really what you need to solve the problem! It is also important to prototype as soon as possible and to playtest as much and often as you can.
His favorite game at the moment is the role-playing game (RPG) “Dungeons and Dragons“! There is an episode at Game Level Learn where they talk specifically about how to apply these ideas to the classroom. That episode, in particular, you can find here. Zac would love to listen to Jesse Schell interviewed in Professor Game. One of Jesse’s presentations is what inspired Zac into gamification. He’s also the author of the book “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.” However, he would recommend as the one book for the Engagers, the listeners of Professor Game podcast, the “Dungeon Master’s Guide” (for Dungeons and Dragons or D&D for short) and also “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn.
Zac’s superpower, as a Ph.D., is certainly having a research background. He can sit back and read a lot of it and see how that can be applied to the industry, besides, he’s already read a lot of it! His final advice, in particular for education is to start small, even with the tools you already have available, like powerpoint or even Kahoot!
If you want to contact Zac Fitz-Walter, you can go to his website gamificationgeek.com or through his email zac [at] gamificationgeek [dot] com.
Well engagers, Easter Egg here! Zac has put together a special page you at gamificationgeek.com/profgame.