LRND 6720 Semester Project: Gamify

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Gamify – For a Paper Version click here

By Toria Felton, Clinton LaForest, and Matt Marino

1 Introduction

1.1 Content

This report contains the game design as portrayed or presented through a virtual classroom setting allowing for interaction between users who assume the identity of students and, within a single mode of the game, an instructor.

1.2 Background

Our goal is to teach people how to design effective and fun serious video games while having them in a virtual classroom setting. There are a lot of people who enjoy playing video games but don’t ever play serious video games. If we can teach people how to design video games the opportunity for people to help other people learn is endless.


2 Game

2.1 Description

You will use the standards set by a history of digital role playing games when playing GamifyGamify will use an isometric pixilated design to create a virtual world to be explored by you, the player. Your player, controlled character will be customizable to allow for you to adapt the look of an avatar within the guidelines of the visual design set for the game. You will be able to modify your game character based on accomplishments throughout game play. We want our players to experience learning in a virtual classroom and learning how to design serious games. You enter into game play with an infinite inspiration for what you can accomplish throughout the game.

The majority of game play will consist of your exploration of the world, gathering knowledge through interactions with items and characters, and ultimately using the gathered knowledge to accomplish tasks and prevail in assignments set by the virtual instructor. The virtual instructor’s interaction with you in your game play is dependent on the game play mode you have chosen: single player, limited multiplayer or full class multiplayer. Keeping up with the virtual instructor’s expectations will be one of your primary concerns during game play. We had to tie our game to a system of rewards largely due to the fact that the game heavily involved a school setting. We made it so that the virtual instructor determines who earns the points, how they earn the points and what they can do with the points they earn through game play.

The game will begin with you entering the virtual classroom where you are introduced to the concept of gaming design. As the game progresses, you will be presented with tasks to research using in game quotes and references or further explore through references to articles and websites outside of the game. The events in the game, typically battles in other games, will be discussions and debates with other virtual students in Gamify. By accomplishing, winning debates, or responding appropriately in discourses, you will gain points toward improving their character. This includes your ability to progress through levels of the game. For example, you cannot access level two in game play without having completed level one. During game play you have the use of an avatar that strongly resembles yourself. We went to great lengths to setup a potential character that strongly resembles each individual during game play. You can make changes and modify the character throughout game play from earning points. Our aim is to make the players feel as though they are participating in a real life schooling experience. Due to this we had to make our game as natural and real as possible to set you at ease.

2.1.1 Avatars and Character Attributes

2.1.1.1 Avatars

Each player will be able to create (per game) an avatar to represent them in the virtual world. As mentioned in the description above, these avatars will be customizable both during the initial stage of the game, as well as throughout the game when new bonuses and levels are earned by the player through their achievements.

2.1.1.2 Character Attributes

Each avatar will be ranked and grow within the game through a set of character attributes:

  • Creativity – The ability to create
  • Synthesizing – The ability to merge concepts
  • Debate – The ability to support and argue successfully
  • Research – The ability to discover

On the player side, these characteristics will influence the bonuses that the player may earn throughout the game. On the side of the instructor, these will be available points with which to grade the student’s improvement. On the side of the game designers, these attributes may be compared from beginning the course through the stages of advancement to the completion of the grade in order to provide an evaluation on the impact of the game upon the player’s educational growth.

2.1.2 Modes of Gameplay

Gamify will also feature multiple modes of game play:

2.1.2.1 Single Player

You will explore a fully virtual classroom and world. You are still presented with the same external world links and research, but only canned responses will be presented for accomplishing discussions and assignments by your classmates within Gamify. You will be required to answer/accomplish tasks in accordance with your associated level. The virtual instructor will critique you based on your level. A submission within level one that is scored highly will not be scored as highly in level ten. It will be your responsibility to examine how accomplishments are being doled out within each level to determine what the virtual instructor is looking for. Single player mode is heavily reliant on your submissions for achievements. Your accomplishments can also determine the appearance of your character and should help prepare you for further schooling.

2.1.2.2 Limited Multiplayer

This mode enables you to interact with other users [classmates] in non-real time. Your fellow classmates may use both canned answers [like in single player mode] or enter custom responses in relation to questions. The selection of the best responses and assessment of completion will used algorithms to scan the text for the correlation with a set of rules or rubric for each assignment, task, and discussion. Ultimately, the virtual instructor will decide if your accomplishments advance you to the next level though. The virtual instructor impacts your points which allow you to progress through the game and allows you to modify your character to best resemble you.

2.1.2.3 Full Class Multiplayer

This mode is akin to a Learning Management System, the game master or controlling character for tasks and events will be a real instructor. This means under this mode an instructor will join game play as the virtual instructor/game master. Each student in class has a real person behind the avatar when joining game play. Finally, all assignments will be initially using the same algorithms as above to grade the assignments, but the instructor (aka game master) has final control over the points awarded for each task or discussion. This mode combines aspects of single player mode, limited multiplayer mode and a real life classroom for your ultimate enjoyment. In this version of game play your classmates can also impact your accomplishments and earned points. It is best to play along with strong characters to give yourself the best chance to succeed.

2.2 Audience

From our research, we had determined that the average age of players is 30 years old and that 62% of all gamers are adults and 68% of the population being above 18 years old (Galarneau, 2014). These statistics guided our decision to make the game for an adult audience. Our audience would preferably have the same average age of 30 years old with a wide distribution (Entertainment Software Association, 2015). This also allows us to concentrate on an area that is not focused on as much in the “edutainment” genre.

That being said, our content will be above board for the majority of audiences and using the ESRB rating system as Everyone 10+ (2015). This is due to the fact that there may be mild language, cartoon/fantasy violence, or suggestive themes associated with the research links.

2.3 Flowchart

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3 Learning

3.1 Goals

  • Represent knowledge for an authentic audience
  • Participate in an intellectual environment
  • Connect readings to assignments and discussions
  • Provide feedback from multiple perspectives
  • Explore elements of context to respond to assignments and discussions
  • Engage in applied activities
  • Formulate well-organized arguments supported by evidence

3.2 Motivation and Learning Theory

With Gamify the design team hopes to promote the process of game design to a general public. Leveraging an interest in video games that is already present by the player’s action of selecting and starting to play Gamify, we entertain this linked intrinsic motivation (Malone & Lepper, 1987) to provide ample information about game design while entertaining the player with conflict scenarios and in game rewards. The matched experience of both playing a video game and learning about game design allows the player to both enjoy the experience and reflect upon the game itself when presented with the educational content throughout their time playing the game. This idea was presented as a core practice of the Quest to Learn program (Salen et al, 2011) which paired gaming with educational goals and content and a possible replacement for traditional learning experiences. By giving the player the opportunity to both play a game and learn about them, the design team feels that this is a clear example of “Integrat[ing] the game idea with the content to be learned.” (Kafai, 2006)

At the beginning of the game, the player is prompted to create a digital avatar to represent them through their educational gaming experience. Adopting again a core practice from the Quest to Learn program (Salen et al, 2011), the design team provides the player the opportunity to take on a new identity to experience the learning opportunities. This practice is expressed by Schell (2008) as The Lens of the Avatar in which the user would create an expression of themselves or their ideal self. However, the practice as written by Salen was expressed as to provide the students with multiple opportunities to take on several identities throughout the length of the entire program. Within Gamify, the design team believes we have also provided these opportunities as the players will be putting on the identities of researcher, debate contestant, students and even possibly teacher dependent on the roles they assume in the multiple styles of gameplay available. Finally, they must also be able to review the content from multiple viewpoints, forcing the player to assume different roles within a single activity.

More specific definition for the progression of levels can be described in the set of activities to be performed before moving forward. Each “round” consists of an introduction to the topic to be covered, research into the subject from required resources outside of the game, a discussion or debate, and ultimately the grading. When comparing this to the Curriculum Structure of Quest to Learn (Salen at al, 2011), the entirety of a level could be compared to their description of a mission in which a mission is a collection of activities ending with a final ultimate test of the knowledge gained over the course of activities. Grading is performed by the game within the single and limited multiplayer modes of the game, whereas in the full multiplayer mode a real instructor performs this activity. Each of the players may be graded by rewarding how well they exhibited the different skill sets represented by character attributes for the avatars. Once graded, significant levels of growth are rewarded in game.

As noted by Schell (2008), we analyzed the experience using the Lens of Reward and believed that we should provide in game advances to the player avatars. This would provide a rise of interest in the game at the time of rewarding and give them a goal to work toward. Understanding that the player’s time spent with the game will be filled with peaks and valleys of interest as described by both Schell and Csikszentmihalyi (2008), Gamify uses these opportunities to add moments of enjoyment after being presented by the decreasing interest periods of lengthy research and struggles of synthesizing information for application within the game. At the same time, we take the opportunity during these moments of reward to provide the user with feedback which was noted as a core practice in Salen et al’s description (2011) of their gaming experience design. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between reward and critique of performance.

However, simply having the player create an avatar and rewarding them for their synthesis of information would not set this game apart from the multitudes of games already available on the market. Gamify‘s advantage and attraction lies in the fact that both the concept and experience are both about the topic of game design. Schell (2008) writes about the four mental abilities that make gameplay possible: Modeling, Focus, Imagination, and Empathy. Imagination’s link is the most obvious to the game as you are given the opportunity to create a digital avatar and navigate them around the digital classroom. Empathy is integrated very traditionally in Gamify, both by having an avatar as the player’s in game representation that they will be focused on improving and from their interactions with the digital classmates. The real point that sets Gamify apart from its competition is that in most games on the market the Modeling of each game is hidden or disguised by the game mechanics presented to the player and the storyline guiding the player’s actions. In Gamify, the modeling of the game is revealed in pieces throughout the experience as the player’s focus is directed toward learning about how to design games themselves. Playing the game, allows the player to practice their knowledge within context and reflect upon the information provided by analyzing the current experience and make realizations throughout on how Gamify was designed.

The major challenge to the design team was the respective habits of the demographic being focused on for the gaming experience. Schell (2008) notes that after the age of 25, players begin focusing more on the amusement of a gaming experience as an escape from the daily routines and responsibilities of adulthood. Until the players within this demographic have aged out beyond the age of 50, the gaming habits become increasingly casual. As a reaction to this barrier to heavily integrating obvious educational content, Gamify provides multiple models of gameplay to adjust for the variations in participation attitudes present within the demographic. Those players more interested in a casual gaming experience can use the single player mode where the content can be easily self-paced. As you slide toward the scale of either more desire to be integrated with a multiplayer experience, the game offers both a casual multiplayer where the users will have to react to other students during emulated discussions and debates. Finally, for those that are either invested “hardcore gamers” or aging past the casual gaming phase back into a demographic with additional time available, Gamify offers these players the opportunity to take place in a fully multiplayer experience with set deadlines and scheduled events for the debates, discussions and, borrowing again from the core practices describe by Salen (et al, 2011), interactions with other student avatars.

Gamify provides a solid gaming experience by focusing on the core principles of game design in order to attract and entertain its target demographic. By using practiced and proven gameplay mechanics, such as avatar creation and rewarding accomplishments, we build upon a solid history of video game experiences. Yet the goal in design of Gamify is also to educate the player population. Using a topic naturally linked to the experience itself, we use that advantage to integrate the pursuit of an interesting topic with the problem solving nature of role-playing games in order to keep the player’s interest while disseminating educational content. Understanding that our target audience has a varied interest level, and many time limited time, for gaming experiences, Gamify uses multiple modes of gameplay to create an intriguing and easy to start game. Tying all of these theories and design pieces together is how Gamify both motivates and engages the players in learning how games are designed.

3.3 Logic Model

Learning Goals Achievement
Represent knowledge for an authentic audience You will be required to synthesize information given through a variety of mediums to express through a variety of tasks your understanding of certain concepts within game play.You will be required in various game play modes to accomplish tasks that are scored by the virtual instructor that will determine your advancement from level to level.

You will earn points in a natural classroom environment that allows you to advance your character and through the game.

Participate in an intellectual environment Your submitted tasks are expected to be high quality products so that you can accomplish them and move onto the next level.Your submitted tasks must be deemed intellectual based on assessment from the virtual instructor.

You’re required to interact with other classmates in certain modes of play and intellectually driven responses will be needed to succeed.

Your ability to collect points through accomplishments will unlock future levels.

Connect readings to assignments and discussions The resources you are provided within game play give you the best chance of advancing from level to level with proper synthesis.Your connection of resources also helps your classmates succeed in the limited multiplayer and full class multiplayer modes.

Your scores will be determined by the virtual instructor to make the experience as natural and real as possible.

Provide feedback from multiple perspectives You will need to express multiple perspectives specific to one concept at various stages throughout game play. It is not enough to have one thought on a subject in later levels.You should be able to offer an opinion from both sides of an argument like you would within a debate.

Your ability to provide appropriate feedback, as needed, can be the difference between advancing to the next level or not.

Explore elements of context to respond to assignments and discussions You will be required throughout game play to add resources to what you are given to read and synthesize to best strengthen your responses to tasks.You will be required to explore resources that best fit with the concepts associated with your tasks.
Engage in applied activities You will need to engage in a variety of defined tasks and activities to complete each level of game play.You will need to present a strong understanding of your tasks through engagement [discussions] that will be judged by the virtual instructor.
Formulate well-organized arguments supported by evidence You should be able to reference multiple references when completing your tasks to advance to the next level.You should understand the virtual instructor includes usage of resources in calculations that determine your accomplishments.

You should try to create graduate level quality submissions early on in game play, as they will be expected in later levels.

You will need to submit products that adhere to what the virtual instructor is looking for, as this will become harder the higher the level.

3.4 Lenses

3.4.1 Lens #1: The Lens of Essential Experience

This lens has to do with determining what experience the game designer wants the players to have. For Gamify we wanted our players to experience learning in a virtual classroom and learning how to design serious games. After looking at this lens it helped us get a better understanding of what we want the experience to be, what need to be a part of our game in order to achieve that, and also how we were going to portray this experience throughout the game. In order to create this experience we decided to have the game take place in the classroom. Also to make the experience more realistic we have those earning points and being asked questions.

3.4.2 Lens #11: The Lens of Infinite Inspiration

Before anyone can start designing a game, they first have to come up with the idea for the game. This lens really helped us determine what kind of game we want to design. Lens 11 encouraged us to stop looking at what games had already been designed but rather looking at things we had experienced before. When thinking of an idea we came up with the usual musical games, travel games, etc. but we want something unique and inspiring. After reading this lens it was clear we all had one experience in common that would make a great game and teach something a lot of people would like to learn, how to create a serious game. This lens gave us our idea behind Gamify.

3.4.3 Lens #40: The Lens of Reward

Most people enjoy playing games and getting rewards along the way when they do something correctly as a sense of achievement. This lens really helps figure out all sorts of things related to rewards. After reading over this lens we determined that since Gamify is school themed it made sense to give out points as a reward. Also it helped us determine that the concept of our reward system is easy to understand so players won’t be confused as to why they are receiving these points. This lens helped guide us on determining when to give out points, what they would earn with the points, and how many points to hand out. It is clear to see when looking at the rewards given out during the game.

3.4.4 Lens #75: The Lens of the Avatar

This lens really helped us determine how we should set up the avatars for the game. We wanted to make sure that the character really portrays them when they are playing Gamify. In order to do that, we allow the player to create their own character. Also they can make changes and buy things for their character by earning points.

3.4.5 Lens #83: The Lens of the Nameless Quality

In Gamify we want players to really feel like they are in a classroom. It should feel like real life to the players in order to help them learn efficiently while having fun. Since we what this to feel as natural and real as possible, Alexander’s Fifteen Properties of Living Structures is a great list to look at. Alexander’s Properties looks at shape, space, scale, boundaries, etc. These are something that are really important when designing a game but get over looked. The lens helped us evaluate the game and see where we could add in more of these properties and which of these properties we already had.


4 Evaluation Plan

4.1 Levels of Evaluation

4.1.1 Reaction, Satisfaction, and Planned Actions

The first level of evaluation will establish a base line of knowledge to be used as a gauge in future levels of evaluation. During this time the game designers and, dependent on the gameplay style chosen, the instructor will utilize participants to gather their own estimation of skill and barriers to learning through construction of their digital avatar.

4.1.2 Learning

As mentioned in the Game Description, the Gamify gaming experience will consist of a circular pattern of assignments to be researched, digital debates and the rewarding of experience points to increase your character’s stance. Each round of gameplay will increase the player’s knowledge of different aspects incorporated into creating a game design. At the conclusion of each assignment, the virtual debate will test the student’s collected knowledge and provide the data back to the game designers and instructor on their progress through each module and ultimately the game itself.

Applications and Implementation

At the conclusion of the game, the players will be able to view their avatar’s progress to evaluate the growth of their skill sets. They will be asked to provide feedback on where they personally would assess their knowledge growth, what barriers to learning existed during gameplay, as well as the enablers which potentially boosted their ability to grasp the information provided. Using this information, the game designers and instructor will be able to evaluate the true progress of the player’s knowledge through the course of the game and adjust accordingly for the future.

4.1.3 Game Design Impact

With the gaming experience complete, the information gathered will be used to create patches and add-on content. Direction for these new and adjusted designs will be provided by an overseeing entity, whether it is committee or funding organization. By using the data available from the above levels of evaluation, the overseeing entity and game designers may compare these results with the trend line analysis and provide both:

Add on content – This will provide additional content not covered in the original set of assignments within the game. Each set of add-on content should reflect both where students have lacked progress as well as the personal feedback of each student.

Patches – These adjustments in the core set of the game will allow for rebalancing of game mechanics and adjustment of the content of modules. These should be primarily based off the commonly identified barriers and enablers during the final evaluation. Game Designers may also evaluate the data collected from the growth of characters throughout the game to determine weak or strong growth areas.

4.2 Collecting Data

Click here for collection data

4.2.1 Procedures

The game designers will be the primary responsible party for collection and verification of data the start, during, and at completion of the Gamify gaming experience. In this role, those designers should construct an engaging and integrated experience to communicate clearly the purpose of each method of data collection and provide summaries after the collection of each piece, distilling the information in order to report on progress to the overseeing entity. While the majority of the data collection will occur through the results of virtual debates and character assessment, the game designers will also be making calculations for game design impact against feedback provided by instructors from the full multiplayer classroom experiences.

Instructors will be responsible for the evaluation and assessment of both the course and their overall perception of player knowledge growth throughout the course of the game.

The overseeing entity will be responsible for the direction of add-ons or patches to be released after the release of the original game. Each add-on and patch will then be assigned to a team of game designers to create the adjustments and additions which will report on the same aspects of this original evaluation plan. This cycle should be cyclical and iterative.

4.2.2 Measures

4.2.2.1 Character Attributes

The following attributes, as described in the game description, will be used to grade the growth over the course of the game for each individual player or as a single point within a sampling of the population of players.

  • Creativity – The ability to create
  • Synthesizing – The ability to merge concepts
  • Debate – The ability to support and argue successfully
  • Research – The ability to discover

4.2.3 Instruments

4.2.3.1 Avatar construction and assessment

The character attributes listed will be used for the players to create their avatar at the beginning of the game. After the conclusion of each debate, the student will gain experience points toward each of these areas. At the conclusion of the game, the player will be presented with their progress and be provided the opportunity to adjust the attributes based on their evaluation of their growth. This will provide information on how this game experience and any add-ons should be designed or evaluated in the future.

4.2.3.2 Debate

Each module in the game will contain an end debate geared toward testing the retention and cohesion of information that was learned each day. This should also allow them to practice their knowledge through repeating and rewording the information in an altered form.

4.2.3.3 Business performance monitoring

The character attribute assessments will be graphed to determine the average progress of learning.

4.3 Isolating the Effects of Training

After reviewing each of the available methods for isolating the effects of the gaming experience, I believe that usage of player assessments of character attributes would most benefit the evaluation being presented to the overseeing entity showcasing the effectiveness of Gamify.

4.3.1 Factors that may influence the measurements

  • Personal growth through training and studying beyond the assignments within the game, and
  • Personal experiences prior to beginning play on Gamify.

The goal of Gamify is to increase the player’s available knowledge of game design.

4.3.2 Participant Estimates

4.3.2.1 Character creation

Alone, the trend line analysis is not an adequate representation of the effects of the training program as personal growth opportunities may actually produce a greater positive trend of improvement than the training program alone would be producing. As a possible means of identifying the tendency for personal growth, prompts may be included in the entrance questionnaire for individuals to rank their own efforts prior to training to improve their own skills. After the training program has concluded these same factors may be re-evaluated with the exit questionnaire.

4.3.2.2 Character Attribute Growth Assessment

The focus group is an excellent opportunity to identify factors that have been affecting the training and evaluation in addition to gauging the effectiveness of the program itself as according to the participants. The focus group will be guided using questions that identify the participants’ struggles with the training program, as well as their ability to apply this toward their current workload, and how well they believe this training will assist them on future projects.

The focus group is also a good time to identify whether the participants have been involved in any other training program outside of this initiative. Also, they may also identify whether the training of the program has encouraged them to seek out their own training in breaks between sessions of this program.

4.3.3 Statement of evaluation of other methods

The above technique has been evaluated alongside several other available methods for isolating the effects of this gaming experience from other variables. The selected technique has been determined as the most accurate and available for the program that would provide accurate results without an excess of additional resources or time required to produce results.

The factors listed within the section, “Factors that may influence the measurements”, have been determined to have the most immediate and influential impact upon the final analysis of the gaming experience. Other variables such as changes in programs, equipment, and educational environment were considered and analyzed. These factors were determined to have a nil to minimal impact on the improvement where the variables of this study were concerned.


5 References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (P.S. Edition). New York: Harper Perennial.

Entertainment Software Association. Age breakdown of video game players in the United States in 2015. In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.statista.com/statistics/189582/age-of-us-video-game-players-since-2010/

ESRB Ratings Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

Galarneau, L. (2014). 2014 Global Gaming Stats: Who’s Playing What, and Why? | Big Fish Blog. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.bigfishgames.com/blog/2014-global-gaming-stats-whos-playing-what-and-why/

Kafai, Y. B. (2006). Playing and making games for learning: Instructionist and constructionist perspectives for game studies. Games and Culture, 1(2), 36-40.

Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction: Cognitive and affective process analysis (Vol. 3, pp. 223-253). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Salen, K., Torres, R., Wolozin, L., Rufo-Tepper, R., & Shapiro, A. (2011). Quest to Learn: Developing the school for digital kids. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schell, J. (2008) The art of game design: A book of lenses. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

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