gamification and gamer style

I finished reading The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon recently. Obviously, Sheldon’s approach to gamification in the classroom extends beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL) to a more game-based curriculum with avatars, guilds and group work. Based on both the title and cover, it’s obvious the influence for Sheldon is MMO games. But as I was reading this text I was really struck by how much Sheldon’s discussion of gamification, and the approach taken by the case study teachers/professors included was influenced by MMO and/or RPG games. This influence is not bad, by any means, but as a casual gamer myself, I was struck by how differently I interpreted the learning goals in quest format when I considered application within my own classroom.

At the first Undergraduate Videogame Symposium at Northern Arizona University we designed an Alternate Realty Game/Live-Action Role Playing Game (ARG/LARPG) to help students and attendees understand what it meant and what it looked like to attend an academic conference. We turned typical conference behavior and conversation into quests, accumulation of quests into access to supplies to individualize an axe (made of wood and tin foil). At the time, we called it a LARPG, being influenced by McGonigal we knew the making component was somewhat unique but maker culture theory hadn’t become popular and/or influential yet. As maker culture, and maktivism became more widespread, it made more sense to call our game an ARG with creative making. In both cases, the design was heavily influenced by the games played by the designers. We both play puzzle games, casual games, phone applications. We both play console games, RPGs, shooters, etc., but only with certain friends. Our friends play RPGs and MMOs extensively, so most of our experience is second hand.

At the first symposium many players/students conflated the LARPG with live-action role playing similar to SCA events, and chose not to participate in/with the game. The second semester more students played and completed quests, but few submitted their quest completion for creative making supplies. With these experiences and my casual game playing I read Sheldon’s book in a very distinct way. Not just how to gamify courses, which I have been doing, but how to support student participation, especially English students instead of students registering for game design courses.

With all this I’m considering how we as a field discuss and conceptualize gamification as a theory that influences pedagogy. The gamification articles I’ve read since completing Sheldon’s book also show heavy influence by MMO approaches to game design. So my new question is what happens to gamification as a theory when the pedagogy designer has more background in a different style of game? Since there is no one right way to conceptualize and/or implement gamification, how does it differ, change. When implemented is it as effective? As I work through my courses this term, with their decidedly casual game influenced gamification, I’m striving to address these questions. I really want to explore theories of gamification to understand if I conceptualize it differently given my player background, and I want to explore how my students respond to gamification in the classroom when it’s influenced by casual games. I’m also exploring the online implementation of gamification in different courses.

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