Book Review – Emotify!

Emotify cover

‘Emotify!’ covers a lot of ground. It starts by making its (virtually watertight) case for game-based learning over lectures (or anything akin to them), and taking an illuminating tour through the landscape of game-based learning. The rest of the book is split in two. The ‘professor’ gives us implementation frameworks: models, approaches, planning and evaluation tools). The ‘ad-man’ gives us marketing advice and helps us answer the question: how do we sell it to our people and our sponsors?

It’s a lot for a 250-page book. But Sutton and Allen are very clear that this isn’t a ‘how-to’. Instead it’s a meeting between two things: the research that underpins game-based learning, and the strategies that help market and position it. This is about laying the groundwork for your organisation to be ready for game-based learning, about fighting the battles you may well need to fight, and about making an actionable plan to implement game-based learning as the new way of doing things.

For instance, the frameworks section is full of references for broadening your toolkit of approaches, taking in a huge range of classic and modern approaches. Further reading than what’s provided here will be needed to take any reader from zero to expert in any particular one of these, but what it does exceptionally well is mark out the playing field in these areas, so you know what you need to be considering. And the marketing advice is very well grounded, and backed with the credibility of Allen’s strong career experience.

If I had a criticism, it would be that it’s a shame that a book that spends a whole one of its nine chapters railing against outmoded educational models is largely written in quite an academic style: it seems a missed opportunity, where form could have mirrored message. But that may be a taste thing; some readers may find an academic style is only to be expected from the sections covering research and, well, academic theory.

If you’re in need of some practical tips on creating the mechanics or player journey of games, this may not give you exactly what you need. If, however, you’re a practitioner in the space (or you employ some), and need something more round the edges to help make sure what you’re doing fits into the bigger picture of research backing and business needs, ‘Emotify!’ fills an interesting niche with aplomb.


Terry Pearce
is a bespoke learning designer, who focuses on game-based learning and gamification in designing learning experiences. He’s the founder of untold play, where he’s committed to putting the power of play to work in learning. In his 20-year career in L&D, his learning design has won awards from Reed Learning, the Healthcare People Management Association and The NHS London Modernisation Agency. Find out more: www.untoldplay.com

1 Comment

  1. Terry,

    We sincerely appreciated your balanced synopsis of our recent text. Our goals and objectives was to bring this material to folks who are trying to figure out how to deploy serious games and simulations in the workplace and higher education. You were spot on with your analysis.

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