Brief review of WordPress gamification plugins
I have developed a course here at Temple University on Social Media Innovation. Last semester I introduced gamification elements of points and levels to the class in a Social Media Innovation Quest. The results were quite positive, with students embracing the experience and working hard to complete tasks. Unfortunately, even using Google Documents and Excel, administering The Quest was quite intensive.
This semester I had two major objectives for enhancing The Quest: adding badges and reducing administration time via more automation.
In particular, I wanted a way to automate some of the scoring and to make other scoring quick enough that I could easily do it multiple times a week. Last semester students received scoring feedback on their activities each weekly class meeting and typically did their work just before class. I anticipate that students will do activities throughout the week if it is scored immediately.
My other major objectives included:
1) Low cost (free is best!),
2) Support points, badges (icons), automatically earned and administrator granted achievements, and
3) Be easy to install, configure, and administer on a WordPress multi-site + Buddypress installation.
Since the primary class activities revolve around the usage of our multi-site WordPress installation (http://community.mis.temple.edu), a natural place to look for automation is WordPress gamification plugins. The WordPress plugin directory was not as helpful as I’d hoped, but from web searches I narrowed the list as follows.
In the week before the semester started, I did a quick and dirty test of all three WordPress solutions on our beta test server. There are definitely things I liked and disliked about all of them; the perfect solution would be a combination of all three.
Bigdoor: I really wanted BigDoor to work out as it is one of the major gamification platforms. Unfortunately, while the WordPress plugin demonstrates BigDoor functionality well, I could do not see any easy way to extend or customize it. In fact, the primary purpose of the plugin appears to be to sell consulting services for the firm that created it. If the included functionality exactly meets you need, this plugin would be fine. Otherwise, it’s not so useful.
Pros: auto-points, pre-defined levels, badges are supported (and provided).
Cons: administration and extension does not meet my needs.
Cubepoints: This is a solid and popular plugin. It will automatically grant points for a variety of WordPress activities and has been extended with other WordPress plugins, too. With some additional programming (which is probably not too hard to accomplish) I could probably get Cubepoints to meet my needs.
Pros: auto-points and levels are provided; leader boards.
Cons: no badges for achievements; no administrator-initiated achievements.
Achievements: This is the plug-in I went with. Like the others, it also automatically grants points for WordPress activities. You can associate images (e.g., badges) with each achievement and it provides for both awards (administrator-initiated) and events (automatically scored).
Pros: auto-points, badges, administrator-initiated achievements, leader boards.
Cons: no pre-defined levels.
If you want to add gamification to a WordPress blog, both Cubepoints and Achievements are viable options. No one plugin has everything (points, badges, levels, awards+events), but for my needs Achievements was the best choice.
After several weeks of usage, I’m still happy with it. There’s a few small feature upgrades I’d like to see, but overall: it works.
image source: higher achiever badge by Steven L. Johnson license: CC BY-SA