Educator and gamified-lesson guru Chris Hesselbein has some invaluable advice to teachers who are considering gamification as a classroom teaching technique.

“In the field of gaming,” Hesselbein writes in his blog, “the term ‘epic fail’ refers to a situation where you fail so dramatically that you can’t help but learn something from it. Even with the best designed gamified lesson plan, you are almost guaranteed to have an epic fail. Failure can be scary, especially in front of students, and most people want to avoid it. However, these failures are in fact the only ways that your game design will improve. Upon launching your first gamified experience, you will probably have a few unavoidable failures . . .”

As I prepare to teach an upcoming session on gamified Google Forms, which are based on a model I use for deploying learning stations in Google Forms, I thought it would be beneficial for fellow educators to share their own gamification epic failures – for the edification of gamification novices in the crowd.

In the spirit of sharing teachable moments, I’ll go first: Prior to reading Hesselbein’s blog (, I didn’t realize there are so many nuances to game design. I am a competitive person, but I don’t fancy myself a game player. I don’t mind the occasional card game with family and friends or an evening spent at the Monopoly board. But living in front a game console is something I haven’t done since elementary school, which was more than three decades ago. Therefore, I never took the time to really investigate game design until roughly a month ago. Now that I’ve spent some time with my toe in game-filled waters, I understand that passing a student a badge or two doesn’t necessarily make a game. I’m now in the process of revamping some professional-development sessions to make them better – and truly gamified. Thanks, Hasselbein for helping me get a better look at the big gamification picture.

There, I feel better. And, now the secret is out: I’m not perfect.

Your turn. Help your fellow educators. Snag a comment box below, and post your gamification epic fail, along with what you learned from it. I’ll link this blog and the testimonies it generates to my gamified-Google Forms training, which is slated for late July.


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Matthew Kitchens

Learning Technologies Coach at Burleson ISD
Matthew Kitchens
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The Epic Fail – The Necessary and Inevitable Part of Gamified-Lesson Design
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4 thoughts on “The Epic Fail – The Necessary and Inevitable Part of Gamified-Lesson Design

  • July 16, 2017 at 9:38 PM

    Really loved this intro. My epic fail was introducing too much features of the game and lots of EdTech with it. It confused my students so much! I am a newbie to gamification, and wrote about it in my blog.
    I also started a website for mentors and mentees to connect: Good luck! And remember: FAIL is just a First Attempt In Learning.

    • July 17, 2017 at 5:18 AM

      Thank you, Noa, for your comments – and the website where teachers can register for guidance and mentorship opportunities. I think your error, which was introducing too much ed tech to students in your gamification ventures, is probably a common one among techy teachers. I struggle with it. Technology should never be a lesson’s heart and soul. Those spots are reserved for learning and pedagogy. I constantly remind myself that technology is a complement to learning and lesson design. The technology I use should complement the academic concepts I’m asking students to learn and reinforce the 4 Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.)

  • July 17, 2017 at 7:12 AM

    My first error was thinking all students would immediately love it. Some don’t. For some it takes time, and others may never get into the game. My second error, and bigger one, is simply layering mechanics over a curriculum that was lacking. If the curriculum isn’t student-driven and meaningful, gamification won’t fix it.

    • July 17, 2017 at 8:10 AM

      Melissa, thank you for your comment. I agree completely. Gamification, like any other pedagogical technique, is a tool. It is not a magic bullet. It is by no means a quick fix to student-engagement problems. A well-conceived plan might help a teacher reach more students than he or she otherwise might have. However, there are no guarantees, so a teacher, like always, has to be willing to monitor and adjust instructional approaches, lesson plans, and other variables to guide students towards success.

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