Ep 050 Samantha Clarke with mystery, gamification and curiosity

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Samantha is a game designer, developer and researcher of game-based learning and gamification applications at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), Coventry University, UK. She works with both internal and external learners, practitioners and stakeholders to develop all manner of quirky gamey things. She sometimes even writes about the quirky gamey things. Her research and practice interests are mainly in the area of curiosity, narrative and puzzle led games that include escape rooms, D&D, mystery boxes and choose your own adventure style games. She is a bit obsessed with D&D and likes nothing more to kick back in an afternoon and kill some deserving cultists.

Every day at six o clock Samantha has a “military operation” to get her young family prepped and ready to go. At work the first thing is coffee, and she feels lucky because her job involves research, teaching, developing and more! Back at home, there is another “operation” to get everyone into bed and then some Samantha time with a game or similar before sleeping.

When she did her first serious game, after finishing her degree (thinking she knew everything), there was a shock from going to entertainment into serious games. It involved a multidisciplinary team, involving educators, developers, subject matter experts and everyone wanted to have a say in the game side! She now cringes at this game because of what it could have been but it was a learning curve! One of the learnings was not allowing others, who weren’t the game/gamification designers, trying to get into the game design decisions and she would now stand her ground more so everyone can provide the best of their experience. Another main learning from this is certainly that you can only really learn how to do something by actually going out there and doing it!

One of the biggest challenges is convincing others that gamification and games based learning really works! At the university, it is mostly convincing other lecturers, she has found that it is regularly because they believe that these techniques are normally digital and require large teams behind them to come to reality, they tend to shy away from them. However, since Samantha and the DMLL have been working multimedia approaches, a couple of years ago they ran into educational escape rooms. They then came up with a framework and made a couple of tests to try out with lecturers and found really satisfactory that they were really excited when they came out, they were saying how they could imagine using it on their classes. Find more about this on the paper they wrote and on their website in this article.

Her process was actually mainly led by the FAIL described before, and it was created along with Sylvester Arnab (past guest!) It always starts with a needs assessment. Looking at what the issue is, who are the end users, where is this going to happen and that leads out to what technology to use. The next step is to look at the learning and/or behavior change objectives, to map them out to game objectives or aesthetics. Then the participatory and iterative design is fundamental to keep refining!


Samantha is convinced that giving player choice is certainly a best practice! Remember the power of choice and its many options, as discussed, for example, by Andrzej Marcewski on this post. Her favorite game is definitely Dungeons and Dragons! She would like to hear from Brenda Romero in Professor Game! As far as books, Mind at Play the Psychology of Video Games by Elizabeth and Geoffrey Loftus, an oldie but goodie! Her superpower would be to move between analog and digital without any fuss.

She is also going to be a speaker at Gamification Europe, where she will talk about her other obsession: mystery boxes. These are experiences that are mailed to students, so they surprise them. At the DMLL they’ve been doing a lot of research around curiosity and she will be showing us why and how it works! Remember that you can get your discounted tickets for Gamification Europe 2018 in Amsterdam just by going through this link: professorgame.com/GamificationEurope. You will get a 10% discount and you will also support Professor Game’s mission because we will receive a small reward if you purchase the tickets through that link.

For the random question of this episode, Samantha was asked about the future of gamification in education. Her answer is quite insightful, so click play if you haven’t to get it! Her final advise is to try out things and not take yourself too seriously, or just play.

To connect with Samantha we can go to Twitter @credit_continue and her blog seriousgameslife.wordpress.com.


There are many ways to get in touch with us, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


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