This semester I explored ideas of gamification in a capstone (Senior level) digital rhetorics course. Ultimately I designed quests and activities to explore creative approaches to rhetorical theory, and to provide space for students to experiment with application in a setting where the choices they made were valued more than the content of the learning. I emphasized no regurgitation, but informed decisions for their reasons, and reflection on those choices.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I play casual games. I know this particular approach to gamification is heavily influenced by that casual game play. I’ve been playing Plant’s vs. Zombie’s 2 for a while now. I play a level or three a night, most days of the week. My 3yo becomes upset if I play without him, so we typically play together, and talk through our decisions in relation to the game. If I have a world key, we talk about what world to open and why (the beach not medieval because he doesn’t know what medieval is). If I have special quests we discuss whether we should play them (yes for something different). If I have special plants we discuss whether I should use them (always yes so he can plant more). Ultimately, the choices he helps me make influence how we play the game, and how empowered we feel as players. Our motivation to play and to connect with the game is strengthened by the choices we have available. After completing the first few levels, I can progress through the game in any way I choose. There are ways the game is designed to assist my decision making, and there are ways the game is designed to entice me to spend money on my decisions ‘to make the game more enjoyable.’ But ultimately, those choices are mine.
In this capstone curriculum, I wanted to explore just such an approach to application of rhetorical theory in relation to big data and social movements. While our goal was never to collect large quantities of data, it was to explore theories of rhetoric and meaning in representations of data, so the focus was not on what programs to choose to collect data, but instead to design visualizations and data collections methods that represent ideologies in specific ways – or to explore the ideologies represented based on the choices made by the data visualization team. As I play through levels of PvZ2 I see just how much my approach to gamification and quest based learning is influenced by my enjoyment of choice in casual games, my freedom to be creative with how I complete these levels. This leaves me with the question: how can we (educators, etc.) re-envision gamification in ways based on genres of games we play, genres of games students play? How could this re-envisioning reshape learning?