Applying Game Mechanics to Legal Education

I have long been interested in the idea of using game theory in education – especially in legal education. The most notable examples of this are…

The Interactive Courtroom from PLI where the student watches the video of a trial unfold and must click to object and then respond with the correct reasons for objecting. If you don’t click, testimony that is detrimental to your client goes into the record and you lose the case. If you object for the wrong reasons, the judge admonishes you. The point is to learn the arcania of evidence and hearsay.

The folks at Transmedia, Inc. have been publishing s similar game called Objection (and variants) for some years now using animated actors instead of live video.

Commercial games like In the First Degree from Broderbund (I could not find the game on their website – it may be discontinued, but you can find it on eBay) and the Law and Order PC games based on the television show. Both of these seem to be versions of finding the clues and not missing anything.

Paul Maharg who teaches at the law school at the University of Strathclyde developed a kind of video game (he might not like this characterization) called Ardcalloch where his graduate law students interacted with live tutors via a fake town called Ardcalloch.

If you know of others, let me know and I will update this post.

The real reason for this post, though, is a recent presentation I ran across called "Putting the Fun in Functional – Applying Game Mechanics to Software".

Running through the slideshow, it game me all sorts of ideas about applying game mechanics to legal education. Here are the ideas organized under the game mechanic described in the presentation …


  • Collect all the facts and sort out the relevant and irrelevant ones in a hypothetical
  • Collect the "right" cases, discard the "wrong" ones in a legal research excercise


  • Most CALI lessons allow Scores to be Saved already
  • Points for completing ALL of the lessons in a particular subject area.
  • Points for grades (if students will share this information – perhaps anonymously)

Redeemable Points

  • Since we can see what lessons students have run and they can save their scores, we could give prizes for completing numbers of CALI lessons (with scores showing that they did well on the lesson to prevent gaming the system).
  • Prizes to schools with the most students doing lessons
  • Prizes to schools with the most lessons run by the students

Social Points

  • Let students take screenshots of questions and share them others to discuss the question and the answers
  • Let students comment on specific questions that other students can view after they have answered the question (sort of a comment feature that is granular down to the question level). Of course, we could have comments per lesson – this would be more like Amazon’s reviews.
  • Student receommendation system (like Amazon’s listmania) where students recommend lessons for particular courses or specific study topics.
  • Aggregate points/reviews for lessons to the authors. This could be an interesting feedback for the authors to suggest changes or improvements to the lesson or as advice to future authors of CALI lessons;

Points – Leaderboards

  • Top students based on scores in CALI lessons
  • Top schools – perhaps broken out by year in law schools
  • Top Authors of CALI lessons
  • Top lessons (we do this a little bit already in the CALI Zeitgeist).

Points – Levels

  • Additional content available only to students who complete a certain number of lessons.
  • Prizes for levels


  • Students who complete many CALI lessons with high scores are asked to share their study strategies.
  • Students who are awarded CALI Excellence for the Future Awards asked to describe how they got the highest grade.
  • Students who run lots of lessons are invited to be paid reviewers of new lessons (or even existing lessons). This would be a way of vetting students into a CALI Editorial Board like arrangement.


  • Screen sharing where two students can virtuall run a CALI lesson together with a chat channel or even a VOIP channel using Classcaster technology. This would be alike a Team Fortress feature.
  • College bowl like challenges between teams of students (or individuals) on a CALI lessons or on a series of questions randomly drawn from CALI lessons in a single subject. This would be interesting – kind of a multiple choice moot court competition.
  • Let students share their "lessons run" lists with the community as a sort of tag list – perhaps let them tag the lessons with super-simple ratings (1-5 stars).


  • Different skins for CALI lessons – or at least different colors
  • Let students build their own lessons using AutoPublish and then share the results via LessonLink.
  • Hmmmm, if students are sharing questions and reviews, might as well let them upload photos or bios of themselves – Law Student MySpace?

That was an interesting thought experiment. Do you have other ideas? I would love to hear them. My email is

Comments are closed.