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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.

Objectives

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.

Technology Options

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.

A) Of the big 3 gamification companies (Badgeville, Bigdoor and Bunchball) only Bigdoor has a WordPress plugin.

B) There are two point management systems available for WordPress: cubepoints and Achievements for Buddypress.

Quick Review

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.

Summary

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

13 Responses to Brief review of WordPress gamification plugins

  • Looks like a great course!

    Luke O.
    Just Colleges

  • Thanks for sharing this. I am delighted to know that wordpress can do this.

    Sorry for the all caps. I don’t know why I can’t turn them off.

    Cheers, Bill.

  • Thanks Steven,

    Just the review I needed. This will save me some time to gamify my site.

  • Thank for the useful review! I didn’t know about CubePoints and Achievements! I am tring BigDoor but as you notice it does not meet our need of customization.

    Because I am not using BuddyPress so I think I’ll start to use the CubePoint Plugin. Anywho, do you have any tips to use this plugin?

  • Thank you. I have been looking to gamify my site.

    I like BigDoor best of the full featured version, however, their free version is the worst option. Two extremes.

    I am about to give CubePoints a trial run.

  • Avatar of Steven L. Johnson

    James — That was my sense, too. There’s a lot I liked in CubePoints, too, and if my needs were a little bit different I would use it.

    Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with Achievements and am using it again this semester. Like a lot of things, as I’ve gotten to understand exactly how it works better, it’s been easier for me to use.

    We have a list of enhancements that would allow us to use it even extensively in our MU installation, but for now we’re limited to using it pretty much in just one class at a time.

  • I have tried CubePoints because I’d like the idea of an open source project and the fact that I could start using it without the needs to install BuddyPress but the lack of API documentation and the forum not so helpful bring me to instal localy the latest BuddyPress Version and start using Achievements.

    Steven will be possible to see how you edited the plugin or where you found the documentation to realize that?
    Thanks for your help!

  • Avatar of Steven L. Johnson

    I don’t know the answer to that question, will have to check with the admin for our install.

  • I have tried Cube Point on a localhost install of buddypress and it worked great. Have been trying to get around with the achievement plugin but its seem not to be working, maybe due to version incompatibility. I used buddypress 1.6.

    I would like to know which of the two plugins would support any form of buddypress plugin extention without any hacking.

    Thanks

  • One of my clients wants to use a “gamification” model (wasn’t even aware of this term until I found this page) on a new forum built with Buddypress. There’s surprisingly little to be found online comparing the two major systems, so I read this article with great interest.

    Now that I’m looking at the forum for Achievements, I see lots of unhappy campers. There seems to be less complaining on the Cubepoints forum, if it means anything (don’t know that it does). Having to install custom software just to get Cubepoints to run makes me nervous, I don’t mind saying. Yet another thing that can go wrong…

    I can see this will require further thought and consideration. I really don’t want to pick one, spend months trying to get it to work and then have to switch to the other. Been down that road too many times before…

    Anyway, thanks for the info. :-)

    NOTE: Got a captcha token error when I tried submitting this from Safari. Now on Firefox…

  • Avatar of Steven L. Johnson

    Karl, thanks for sticking with the commenting challenges. I’ll have to look into that.

    I’m still quite happy with the Achievements plugin, but I think Cubepoints may well be a better fit for a lot of needs.

    Good luck with your project!

  • Very Enjoyable! I hope you write more on this subject!





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