I continue my streak of non-medieval posts but this time with a return to “Gamification” literature. Here around, I speak about Michael Matera’s book Explore Like a Pirate.

Like my last book on Gamification, The Multiplayer Classroom, I discovered this book thanks to a blog post from game developer Triseum. I can’t be bothered to find the post now, but it suggested several titles worth checking out and of those titles, both The Multiplayer Classroom and Explore Like a Pirate stood out. I quickly acquired copies and got about in reading them; now, my thoughts on Matera’s work.

In a word? Good.

One should not be mistaken that Matera’s work is just another dry academic text. No. Explore Like a Pirate is a very different beast than The Multiplayer Classroom. Aside from the obvious difference of publisher– Matera’s work is clearly much more “Indie” than Multiplayer— the books are written very different; why they are written differently is for the audience.

Whereas The Multiplayer Classroom was written to largely convince other academics about the merits of gamification, Matera’s book is more directed toward Middle and Secondary Educators. It is less an outline of the curriculum of a gamified classroom and more an argument for why one should gamify their classroom, all though it is an argument made through a step-by-step guide. Which is where the key difference lies: Multiplayer was about the theoretical underpinnings of gamification while Matera argues only briefly for gamification before launching into a detailed walkthrough on how to gamify.

I like this approach and it was a nice respite from the dense academic texts that I am used to reading. Matera’s short book was very pragmatic and intent on giving educators the information they needed about whether they should try to gamify their classroom; using his personal experience as an educator, he successfully (re convincingly) argued for why any educator would benefit from gamifying their class.

One of the things I liked most about Matera’s effort was that he offered practical solutions to everyday problems. He gave step-by-step instruction for teachers who wanted to gamify and reiterated the structure of the gamified classroom. The final product of this pragmatic approach was not only a manual for those curious about gamification but a starting point that anyone could use.

This surprised me because, I do have to say, for the first 30% or so of the book, I felt that it was wishy-washy. Matera didn’t cite many sources and his prose was overly sentimental for my tastes. Thankfully, the book became denser once the introductory material was out of the way and he began to get into the actual dynamics of what a gamified classroom looks like and operates like.

While I was reading this book, I got several relevant ideas for my own (future) gamified classroom. So, I found this book very helpful and a superb complementary textbook to The Multiplayer Classroom. I can not say which you should read first as both books make their argument for gamification in different, powerful ways; what I will argue, though, is that any educator interested in gamification read both books back to back or simultaneously in order to get the full breadth of what gamification entails. Do that and you will have soon a firm idea of the innovative ways in which games and education mix.

Much like my review for The Multiplayer Classroom, I am ending things here: it is sufficient to say that with the plethora of neat ideas coming from years of teaching experience, Matera knows his stuff. Watch out in the future for when I cite this book numerous more times as I explain my own classroom ideas; in the meantime, I hope you found this short review covering the essentials of the book helpful. If you have questions or constructive comments, please share below.

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