If you’ve read my previous blog posts you probably know that the goal of my project is to execute overall better communication of sustainability matters at University of Tampere to their students, get (not only) students to participate in sustainability actions and communication, and to make them realize and believe that current issues that the world is facing concern all of them.

For this goal, a gamified solution seems to be the right direction. One of the fundamental elements that characterizes the use of gamification (in education, for instance) is its effect on student motivation. Various studies indicating that gamification elements improve the level of commitment, motivation and promotes participation (not only) in the learning contexts. Furthermore, gamification actively promotes conflict resolution which leads to greater independence in learning decisions and create tendencies towards self-learning. (Jesús Santos- Villalba, M., et al., 2020)

But what is gamification? The term gamification refers to a process of turning an everyday or non-game activity (or a task) into a game (Dictionary.com, 2021) by adding game-like elements (Macmillan Dictionary, 2021). It is used to make activities more interesting and enjoyable (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2021), which encourages people’s participation and increases their motivation. Examples of the use of gamification can be seen in recruitment or training programs, loyalty programs, or in learning.

There are multiple definitions of gamification. According to a definition provided by Deterding et al. (2011), gamification is “the use of game design elements in a non-game context” (Deterding, S. et al., 2011). This definition is very close to the one of Seaborn and Fels (2015), although they emphasize the term “intentional use” (Seaborn, K. & Fels, D. 2015). As for the advanced definition, gamification is “the intentional design (or transformation) of systems, services, organizations and activities to afford similar experiences as games do”. This is often done by employing technologies (extended reality; XR) and design elements (point- systems, narrative, roleplay, etc.) commonly present in games. (Thibault, M., Bujić, M. and Hamari, J., 2021) Today, gamification elements can be seen all around us – in education, business, life coaching, many apps i.e., Quizlet, Nike+ and more. It is also widely used as a marketing tactic, as it encourages consumer participation, engagement, and loyalty. (McGonigal, J., 2010)

The proposed solution of the wicked problem is a gamified solution, in this case, an application that would work as an educational platform as well as information portal on which students could be rewarded for reporting sustainability actions, attending seminars, or submitting posts in the forum, etc. The rewards could be discounts for sustainable fashion choices, vegan food options or free entries to various student events, parties etc. Collaboration with companies, organizations, and already existing applications could be a possibility. The whole system could also work as a competition between users and the winner would get a bigger prize at the end of the academic year.

Contents of the application

As for the contents of the application or website, the vision is to have the following sections/categories:

  • Education – This section would include the introduction of each of the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, interesting facts would be presented in the form of daily notifications.
  • NewsThis section would inform the user about the current situation in the world, what is happening etc. Among news, notifications on opportunities for signing petitions, taking any kind of action or on sustainability events happening near the user would be included.
  • ForumThe forum section would be a place to connect with other members of the community. Whether it is sharing a vegan recipe, asking for a tip, or letting others know where to shop ethically/sustainably, the main goal is to create discussion and connect users with one another. As can be seen in many Facebook groups, this method of sharing information works and can be very helpful for the users.
  • Do not waste In this section, various restaurants would list their offerings of left-over food that would otherwise end up in the waste. An example of such existing system is the ResQ Club application1. Moreover, users could list their own offerings to other users (plant swap, food swap, etc.).
  • GamesWhile playing educative games (climate change, etc.), users would be rewarded with points or badges and could compete with other users. Certain amounts of points would unlock discount codes for partnered companies.
  • How to help This section would include listings of charity work, volunteering, etc. As mentioned above, sustainability is not only about climate change, thus, users would also be encouraged to help with social work, care taking, keeping company for people in need, etc. This section would also include notifications with encouragements to help others either directly or via different initiatives i.e., Diakonia.
  • BenefitsHere, users would find all discount codes for partnered companies (thrift shops, vegan/vegetarian restaurants, local shops etc.). To motivate students to choose more sustainable options, with a specific code from this application – which they would present in the student cafeteria – they would be given a small discount for their meal at the university cafeterias.
  • Sustainable Investing As sustainability also includes an economic aspect, this section would be dedicated to information about local Finnish banks and impact investing.
  • Integration into Finnish lifeAs previously mentioned, a great part of the project is emphasizing that sustainability is not just about protecting the environment. This section would focus on information and tips for immigrants (international students) who might find a hard time integrating into the Finnish culture. This would include not only integration into the Finnish higher education system but also the whole society. This part is extremely important, as previous research indicates that continued sustainability practices without guidance on how to manage the nuances of the social dimension could exacerbate inequality and lead to social exclusion (Kohon, J., 2018).

Is it that simple though?

Although it might seem like the solution is very concrete and set, different events happened that might influence the project. Another meeting with a client resulted in more questions and loose ends of the solution.

The client mentioned that the project might be of way too big scope and the possibility of making the project just an informative website (though then the project would lose all the gamification elements) or a part of an already existing system. Such system could possibly be the Tampere University Guidebook app, which aim is to help new international students to get hold of all requirements need before arrival and to get tips on what to do after moving to Tampere. Such solution is possible, though many issues arise. According to Tiina Nilsson – Specialist in Education and Learning, the app is not owned by the University and is ran via a yearly subscription from Guidebook Inc. It is therefore not clear if updating the contents and adding different elements would be possible. Furthermore, it is only active during the summer; the activity is slowly starting in April-May and then the Guidebook is “phased out” around the end of August-beginning of September. This fact creates another inconvenience as international students struggle way more only after moving to Tampere and during their whole first year of studies. The application should then be active as a source of information thorough the whole year. Whether this option is possible is currently the aim of discussion with the University staff via email correspondence.

During a presentation by a board member of TREY – Student Union of Tampere University, another aspect related to this project arose. According to TREY, there is a need for student association awareness among international students. There is also need for tutors among the international students. Most of the tutors are Finnish locals, therefore lacking the knowledge of the struggles new internationals face after moving to a different country. Furthermore, even when assigned a tutor, their interaction with the new degree students is in some cases even non- existent. Per the concrete solution, information about associations could be included and a form of “digital tutor” that would help new international students with their integration.

All the events stated above imply that the real wicked problem of the client – University of Tampere – is the fact that different divisions of the University (TREY, Innovation and staff managing the Guidebook app) face the same problems but do not know about one another. The proposed solution, when connecting all the three divisions could therefore solve more than one wicked problem.


Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). Gamification. In Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/gamification

Deterding, S., Sicart, M., Nacke, L., O’Hara, K. & Dixon, D. (2011). Gamification using game- design elements in non-gaming contexts. In CHI ’11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’11). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 2425–2428. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/1979742.1979575

Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Gamify. In Dictionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gamify

Jesús Santos-Villalba, M., Leiva Olivencia, J., Ramos Navas-Parejo, M & Benítez-Márquez, M. (2020). Higher education students’ assessments towards gamification and sustainability: A case study. Sustainability, 12(20), 8513. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su12208513

Kohon, J. (2018). Social inclusion in the sustainable neighborhood? Idealism of urban social sustainability theory complicated by realities of community planning practice, City, Culture and Society. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccs.2018.08.005

Macmillan. (2015). Gamify. In Macmillan Dictionary. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gamify

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world/up- next

Seaborn, K. & Fels, D. (2015). Gamification in Theory and Action: A Survey. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 74, 14-31. 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.09.006

Thibault, M., Bujić, M. & Hamari, J., (2021). SDL.610 GAMIFICATION: A Walkthrough of How Games Are Shaping Our Lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *