A Perspective on Blending Programming Environments and Games: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards — Titus Barik

In this talk Titus will go over what we can learn from games to improve programming environments. Firstly, why? At first glance, blending them might seem strange, programming is serious and gaming is fun. They are so clearly different. On the other hand, there are often hard tasks a user has to perform, by performing a lot of actions. In a real time strategy game, for example, you have to repair buildings, deploy troops, gather resources, all at the same time. Research has shown that in order to succeed a player needs to know 250 commands. We could learn from that in programming, because a lot of commands are under used. In adventure games, a user often has to explore an area, like with the grappling hook in Lego Batman, whose cross hair lights up if a connection is possible. In programming, we also need to explore unknown areas, but is sure is a lot less fun!

Some experiments have been run towards getting game like elements into the IDE, called “gamification” (For example, Snipes 2014) However many of those are very narrow and only focus on points and leaderboards. This is a problem because, for gaming they aren’t the core component, that is intrinsic motivation, but gamification put it at its core (Ryan 20006, Robertson 2010). Also, points and badges are not for everyone, different personality types do not enjoy them equally (Hartmann 2006, Ratan 2015, Rehbein 2016) More different elements of gameplay should be explored, says Titus.

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For example, aesthetics. Making games look very nice is not just for looks, even when the mechanics are the same, people experience games differently (there was a reference for this, but I missed it)

What do you think those 6 features could mean to IDEs? Titus wants the audience to think! What is IDEs were already games, what would they be? Not very good games, argues Titus. What would you say about Visual Studio, the game?

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Visual Studio is a bit big, but let’s take one plugin, like nCrunch. It is like a game in that there are colored buttons that indicate testedness. But, aesthetics and narrative are missing. We could change it and add a narrative, like a toad crossing the road, that a user controls with source code.

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This is a position paper so there is no tool or evaluation. Sadly I couldn’t find a preprint :'(

1 Comment

  1. Titus Barik

    Thanks for the write-up. Pre-print is available at the link:

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