Tag Archives: JtS

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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Why humanities you ask……because we care about the human condition!

Last night the College of Arts and Letters at Northern Arizona University coordinated a “Humanities in Action” event to demonstrate and share the many different ways students, staff and faculty in humanities disciplines create amazing projects. I participated in presenting the VonStrausheimer Mystery game.

As part of this *presentation* I answered questions, and held discussion with many participants, students and faculty who attended to present their own projects, or to understand the humanities better (or, let’s face it were required to be there for various reasons). What I found very enjoyable about this question session was the informality allowed space for students (especially grad students) to feel comfortable asking good questions about game design, and the inclusion of games to inspire learning. I had a few undergrads who were clearly game players interested in entering the field of game design – but most questions came from interested educators who were arguably wary of inclusion of games just for the sake of games. I fielded questions about empirical evidence for the inclusion of games, the variety of clues/puzzles and learning outcomes associated with those clues/puzzles, the larger contexts ARGs could be used, the difficulty in integrating ARGs in those larger contexts, the use of ARGs in classroom……such fantastic questions. Ultimately, I hope instructors learned, or consider the many ways students are willing to engage with learning, and the way real-world problems can be and are regularly addressed by humanitarians.

Why humanities you ask……because we care about the human condition!

This was by far the most common phrase, and the most important phrase circulating at the event yesterday. I hope many take this idea to heart. To solve real-world problems humanities majors should be involved, consulted. We may not be able to code a website (although some of us can and many of us can figure it out), we can ask the questions that need to be asked to ensure possible approaches, outcomes, ideas fit the needs assessed for solving the problem!

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technology choices to discuss the ARGs

So this week, after preparing for a talk on mommy bloggers… more on that anther day…….I spoke to some people about the ARG Chris and I designed to accompany our symposium. I really want to publish and discuss this game in a multimodal arena, so the paper representation can show-off the digital aspects of the game. The problem is, both games result in creative making….. so I also need to incorporate images of the makes (can I call them makes because I really like it). Plus we documented development meetings in Tumblr as a space to show our creative making process. This means a whole different version of inclusion f technology to show the breadth of this project and the various integrations with technology as we learned to design learning. Finally the @symposium game will us a printed game quest *brochure*. So I’m currently struggling with the most effective way to showcase all these technology choices in line with our vision for student learning and engagement. To help this struggle, I wanted to list everything out so I’d know what needs to be incorporated. Now I have a starting point and I can brainstorm ways to write this paper and make…..

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straight logistics yo…….ARG design

this week we’re dealing with tying up and finalizing all our ideas…..digitizing them….then determining an effective way to deploy the game between today and the Undergraduate Videogame Symposium that takes place on March 26th, 27th, and 28th. We’re not going live today, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re close!

So, today we’re considering logistics – what do we load in advance? how do we post a deployment schedule that students will actually read and revisit? how do we finish up all the last minute minor details quickly? how do we finish that last few quests now that we’ve modified and created the earlier ones? It’s interesting how many loose ends remain right before deployment. Before we had significant art work, and a site that could hold and embody that art work, and the links to quests, it was hard to actualize these last details. There are also very few ARG designs that create a game in this manner, so we really had no model to help us actualize these details. When Quest-to-Learn designs boss levels, the students create projects similar to our game site so the pedagogy and curriculum design includes significant information on support student engagement and questing, but very little on launching a game, understandably. Argosy includes similar details, but deployment was different since the questing should be completed over the course of orientation, instead of across weeks. So we’re muddling our way through engagement, advertising, and maintaining focus, while completing the game. My mom always said events are “hurry up and wait, then hurry up and wait.” She’s right, once again 🙂

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Quest design with RL objects

So I have a conundrum today. for an opening quest in our JtS game we needed a lock box. as we have no funding at this time for game design, I went to Goodwill for the box, hoping to spend less money, but also realizing that this decision would influence the boxes available. but, I also wanted something with character. So goodwill had options (YAY thrift stores!), and I came home with an old slide projector box. TONS of character, easily inked to fit our steampunk symposium motif.

so, the conundrum…..the box included projector slide rectangles, and about 10 old (1960’s we think) slides.
we had not nailed down the puzzle for the lockbox, but we have an idea what will be inside for the subsequent quest. so now that I have the box do I let the physical object and it’s interesting contents dictate the quest, or do I modify the box to meet quest needs? when designing an ARG and actually interacting in a world that can be modified for my purposes, should I let those inanimate objects have a say? this is my conundrum – and either choice will result in similar findings to progress our story forward, but the overall clue for the end of the story will differ significantly. This affords a new way to tell the story, to possibly date the story, to potentially increase engagement with theory so our players will want to continue playing. Importantly, I don’t believe there is a *right* answer to this conundrum. It will now depend on how we want to tell the story, and what type of quest we want our players to solve. So the conundrum really is, now that I have the box, how do I want my players to learn?
on a side note: I’ve been playing around with creative making, so I’m archiving my making on a tumblr page. Once the game launches and people are playing I’ll upload the tumblr post here for your viewing pleasure!

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super secret game designer

although i’ve been discussing ARG design and eventual inclusion of ARG design in a videogames and literacies course, today I feel like a super secret game designer. My partner in design and I made serious progress on our overall game design, transition from game to symposium design, and final mission design – including side missions to bridge ARG design with creative making and makerspace movement principles. writing it out like that seems daunting and not quite as squee as it feels right now. I’m starting to see just how much literature and creative writing have to add to overall videogame design (*ahem videogame companies) – story matters as it adds elements not previously considered. I’m also realizing just how glad I am I stumbled upon Losh’s super amazing books (Virtualpolitik and others) to really consider not just interactivity in story, but the rhetorical argument of technology. I presented on the interaction of content learning, quests and game design – but now those categories are becoming more complex. Design is not just game trajectory, it’s also storyline and interactivity which is where the connection to quests and content learning becomes very obvious. But, it’s also the design of the technology, the underlying argument or accidental argument made by technology (Losh’s chapter 5 on PowerPoint arguing is fantastic for understanding this). It’s the design of the story to organically transition into or introduce quests through the technology used.

Now as I’m considering the complexity of assigning similar design to students i’m considering which aspects need to be simplified for effectiveness in the classroom. If they design quests, is that enough, if they design quests and technology but don’t have story, is that enough. Then what do they write up, what do they present? As I’m designing learning for a videogame symposium through game design, I’m also considering how to design an assignment to teach students to design learning environments themselves. What product do I want from them at the end? A paper because it’s a composition course, but what else demonstrates learning? What happens if I leave this concept too open?

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and now for designing

well….we’re at the brainstorming phase. with our previous JtS game we focused on moving people beyond ice breaker challenges, beyond scavenger hunts, but we weren’t quite at the interactive immersed learning. we were more focused on designing quests – that could be played, or not played – to help students understand how to attend a symposium. we’ll have new attendees this year, but we want to take our game design a step further making them aware of good learning before and during our symposium. so we realize and understand the connection between design, learning [goals/objectives/content] and quests. As a professor, I understand curriculum design, determining end learning goals and demonstration of those goals, then assignments to walk students through those goals, but i’m also very aware of the required nature of courses and the grades associated with completion as motivators for completion. Now I need to remember fun, i need to design fun – while I think my lesson plans are fun they’re still lesson plans i need to think fun outside the classroom. delivery method – the shell of the game – also factors into these decisions about design and designed learning. today, right now, this seems much more daunting than designing a brand new multimedia course for graduate students. i think once it settles more, and i play with our overall theme I’ll feel more comfortable with this new version of curriculum design.

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ARG Objectives

As I’m reading through the literature, I continue to find references to ARGOSI as a successful ARG designed to help students through orientation, which also publishes their information! SCORE!

When we originally designed Jack-the-Symposium, we designed the quests to help students explore our Undergraduate Videogame Symposium. Anticipating (correctly) that this symposium was the first academic conference many of these students had attended, and with the cross-disciplinary presenters and attenders, we needed a way to show students how to be Symposium Attendees (with all the rights and responsibilities afforded by that title). We designed a game to assist students with attending panels, interacting with peers, interacting with peers from other majors, and interacting with symposium organizers, to help walk them through the symposium. While not everyone played, the game was a success, and our approach meaningful. When we presented at PHX Comicon pushing the determine your learning goals then design your game idea, the attendees (teachers, students, dungeon masters, and many more) left with ideas for designing learning in their own contexts.

So now we want to take the game to a higher level. What we learned through various presentations and discussions and department orientations was many people like the idea of a videogame symposium, and understand at a high level that the focus is not A videogame, but what videogames tell us about learning. HOWEVER they don’t know how to talk to their students about these ideas. So as I began creating learning material to help faculty and staff, i started realizing that students may not know these ideas either. While all parties affiliated with the university have access to research databases, they don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for.

This is where our JtS game is now headed, and why i’m overly concerned with learning goals and learning objectives, and the deliverables found in missions and quests to meet those goals and the design of the game that allows exploration of the learning principles, and the design of the technology that hosts the game to further help students with these ideas. So while I’m used to designing learning objectives in course settings, I typically then assign an article, or book, begin class discussion to lead students through learning, then assign various writing assignments to allow at-home written exploration of those objectives. None of these ideas work in-games. They sound boring, and fun games are hard, not boring. So what verbs lead to strong learning objectives that I can attach missions and quests to that will show learning deliverables?

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