Anna Karenina principle in adoption of gamification

Blog Post created by smachaje on Sep 6, 2017

machajewski_gamification.jpgLutz Bornmann and Werner Marx from the Max Planck Society in Germany wrote about the Anna Karenina principle as a way of thinking about success in science experiments (Bornmann, & Marx, 2012). According to the principle, success in science at the excellence level requires all key elements to be fulfilled. A single element unfulfilled may lead to systemic failure. For this reason, experiments are often unsuccessful in their own unique and particular ways.


Gamification in this case study was a complex system of many tools in two main categories: short-term engagement and long-term participation. Adoption of just a few of them, such as a leaderboard, a points system, or classroom response system may not lead to the gamified culture among the students and high levels of motivation, which was reported in the data of this case study


Conversely, unsuccessful studies of gamification should not reflect a general lack of applicability of gameful design in academic courses. Instead, such studies should be considered in the light of the Anna Karenina principle focused on the missing elements either in short-term game or long-term game design. The prevailing important conditions for success in gamification may be more difficult to identify in successful case studies of the phenomenon, while in the unsuccessful experiments they may be easier to document. The unsuccessful case studies may shed light on a possible long list of required criteria for gameful design of instruction.


Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (from Leo Tolstoy's book Anna Karenina)
Happy gamifications are all alike; every unhappy game is unhappy in its own way.


Read the case study on adoption of gamification in STEM introductory college course:



Bornmann, L., & Marx, W. (2012). The Anna Karenina principle: A way of thinking about success in science. Journal Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 63(10), 2037-2051. doi:10.1002/asi.22661


Machajewski, S. (2017). Application of Gamification in a College STEM Introductory Course. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Education Resources Information Center