Gamification to increase sports participation
The project has two aims; firstly to gain an understanding of the psychology behind why it is so common for adolescents to drop out of sporting activities between the ages of 12-15; secondly, to see if commonly used practices in video games could be applied to help reduce adolescent dropout rates. In order to give scope to the development of the application, sailing was chosen as the sport of focus, a sport like most others, which is badly affected by high adolescent dropout rates.
‘SailSuite’ is an application built specifically for sailing instructors and their students. In a world where dropout rates in adolescent sport are consistently high, SailSuite’s overall purpose is to provide instructors with a method of keeping their students motivated, by adapting practices used in video games and facilitating better communication between instructors and their students. Research into the psychology of why children and teens choose to drop out of sport at an early age, along with why video game popularity among the same age group continues to rise, influenced and shaped the design of the application. SailSuite was built using Laravel, a php framework based on the MVC design pattern, incorporating a complex relational database schema. SailSuite’s functionality can be broken down into two sections, one for groups and one for individuals. Students are organised into groups, with an instructor assigned to each group. Each group is given a score that the instructor may increase/decrease in response to noteworthy behaviour. Students work as a team to boost the group score in order to achieve milestones. Milestones are rewards created by the instructor that are adapted to a group’s age, range, skill level and maturity. Instructors also have the ability to communicate with a group as a whole in order to post feedback, information and learning resources. The individual functionality relates to how instructors can access student profiles in order to post private feedback and also make changes to a student’s sailing logbook. Students, when logged into SailSuite, are able to view content that is relevant specifically to them (i.e., private feedback, their own logbook) as well as content that is relevant to their whole group, such as group posts and milestones and overall group score. SailSuite is a responsive web application, meaning it scales and adapts its interface to the screen size on which it is being viewed.
Analysis of a theoretical framework of ‘fun’ was central to the development of relevant functions in the application, which highlighted that a key driver of participation actually pertained to communication and inclusion. Thus the application had to go beyond the inclusion of gamification and include communication functionality. Researching why video game popularity among adolescents continues to rise, influenced the design of the functionality and proved critical for development of relevant functions. The findings from the user testing survey proved the functionality and intuitiveness of the application and its satisfactory performance against expectations.