Big Game Elements: The Backbone of your Gamification
“Big Game Elements” are really what make up your entire game. Decisions like “how will they earn points” or “when can they use rewards” will drive other, more detailed aspects of your game. Think of what will work best for your subject area, as well as your teaching style, so you can be comfortable with your game as you lead your class through.
Matera asserts that there are 2 models to base your gamification around: Radoff’s model, and the SAPS model.
Jon Radoff is an entrepreneur who uses gamification in his businesses, and uses 4 main elements: immersion, cooperation, achievement, and competition.
Immersion: Using storytelling, theme, etc. to immerse students in a new world where they can explore and create.
Achievement: Giving students the opportunity to master skills, level up, and receive feedback on a skill.
Cooperation: Creating meaningful experiences through collaboration and teamwork, and building positive communication skills.
Competition: Allowing students to bond over meaningful tasks and trials, building positive social interaction skills.
This model was created by Gabe Zichermann, who is also an author as well as the creator of GSummit. He also has 4, different elements: Status, Access, Power, and Stuff.
Status: Acknowledging work through things such as leaderboards, levels, goals, etc. Can be individual or group oriented.
Access: Creating interest and motivation by “locking” things away until a goal is achieved: gaining new “powers” for a level, unlocking a “secret area” by completing an extra quest, etc.
Power: Also referred to as Agency. Allowing students to make decisions, etc.
Stuff: Using in-game items to motivate student achievement. Generally the least effective method.
Materas suggest taking elements from both to create the type of game you feel works best for your class and your students.
Game Mechanics: The Important Details of Gamification
There are many different ways you can utilize game mechanics, from just a few point-based systems, to items, experience, levels, and more! An important thing to remember when choosing you mechanics is how you will keep track of everything going on in your classroom.
Here are some suggestions from the author (If you want steps to follow, skip further down to the bottom):
Experience Points are often the backbone of a game. They’re easy to implement and can be earned as extra credit or during regular class time for doing things like answering questions or helping others.
These can be used in different ways; in conjunction with XP (certain amounts of xp=certain levels) or as “worlds” like in a mario game; when you make it to a certain world or complete certain tasks to “level up,” you move on to the next set of tasks.
Some of Matera’s Level titles that he uses/suggests are:
You can also match up your titles to your theme and story.
Leaderboards are an easy way to acknowledge student achievement and can inspire students to work to “rank up” on the boards. These can be based on levels/ranks, and can include as much information as you’d like. You can also give rewards based on rank, or allow students at certain levels to collaborate.
Guilds are groups that encourage students to work as a team, rather than pre-assigned class mates. Some of the in-game names Materas suggests are:
This is basically deciding how you will explain the game to your students. You have to make it interesting, engaging, and short. If you can hook them from the start, it will be easier for them to become invested in the game. Make it fun and interactive, and give it some fanfare, because you want students to be excited about this!
These achievements are used to give groups and players agency and accomplishment. They can choose to try and earn specific badges, or you can set it up so the groups can’t progress to the next “level” until they’ve earned certain badges or items. These are usually motivators and work well when paired with other mechanics.
While these special items need to be carefully balanced, they can bring a fun aspect to the competition, especially if used during mini-games and challenges.
Quests are often mini-lessons, mini-games, extra credit options, or assignments that students need to complete. Decide whether or not you want them to be extras (optional) or required. You need to decide what the rules are for your guests as well, like if there is a certain amount of time to complete them, or if they can only be turned in once.
Items just add to your game, but they can really create motivation and excitement for students. These will build up as your game goes along, and some can help with specific challenges, or just in general. Some of Matera’s items are below:
Skills are often used in place of items. Students can be a “class” (wizard, warrior, healer, etc) and as they level up, they can gain skills (like the ability to skip a question on a test, or get a hint on a game) that are specific to their class, encouraging students to work together with different classes to form a balanced team.
Currency can be used in place of experience, but add a “trade” element, so students can accumulate currency then trade for items, abilities, etc. Management is important with currency, so students do not have the ability to cheat (for example, Materas uses “digital” currency on a spreadsheet, where students may check their balance but have no control over the money itself until it is time to spend.)
Allow students to learn as they go along. This is also useful when you don’t have the entire game planned the day you start it with your kids. Revealing new information to them when the time is right keeps things in bite-sized chunks.
Anything from a review to team building, mini-games and challenges mix up your class and create excitement. These are quick to reward students with a sense of achievement or accomplishment as well as keeping kids interested.
These are set up to prevent students who are falling behind from just giving up or quitting. These cannot be too overpowered, or they could be game breaking, and they must be offered only when a team needs it.
Like all forms of competition, these need to be balanced, friendly, and fair. Using things like Kahoot to resolve challenges between students gives them an equal chance of winning, and you can keep the results organized.
Unites the whole class to solve a common goal; can be complex but create a strong sense of community, teamwork, and membership between students.
Adding a time element is an easy way to engage students and engage them in a task that otherwise has no constraints. However, these times need to be fair and even, and this is hard to differentiate for students who need extra time to complete events.
This can be used to “balance” out your game, and the more risk, the more engaged students get. These can be for missing assignments, or for extra challenges. In addition, you can add rewards (example, class with the least missing points get 500 xp, class with them ost missing assignments loses 500 xp)
These can motivate students to really delve deep into your game. After the first few are found (and prizes are given out; items, xp, currency, etc) students will have an eye out for them all the time!
Students can trade for items, with a “shop” or with each other. These work best when there are rules about when and how students can trade for items and in-game perks.
This allows you to reward players who complete small, repetitive tasks, or who struggle to complete bigger quests.
This is like the Olympics of your class; something students look forward to all semester or even all year. Materas does a department-wide quiz bowl, and invites previous students to participate. Many things in class can be linked to the Special Challenge, and kids look forward to it all year.
If you’re feeling lost in all the mechanics, Materas offers simple steps to create your game:
Player Types: Know Your Players
As you know, kids come in all shapes and sizes, and they will all receive gamification in their own way. Some will be interesting in racing to level up or collect points, some will be interested in thwarting other players. Knowing your players before you set up your groups can help you create balanced teams that will allow your game to run smoothly.
Matera suggests having your students take the Bartle test, which will place them in one of four categories: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers. These four categories work together to create teams that will experience your gamification completely.
Achievers: Focus on gaining points, levels, items, etc; enjoy measuring themselves against others who are playing the game.
Socializers: Enjoy using the game to socialize and work with others; they like being spokespersons for their team and often form friendships with their team members.
Explorers: Rather than focusing on “winning” or completion, they enjoy figuring out the game and looking for secrets or “glitches” in the game. They are motivated by discovery and finding things others may have missed.
Killers (aka Griefers): Enjoy beating other players, and taking risks to gain points, items, levels, etc. fast, rather than taking the slow but sure route. Will be the first to gamble and take on risk/challenge in your game.
When you look on the chart, you can see what matters most to each player type, for example, socializers need “players” and “interacting.” By testing your students and spreading them out according to player type, your teams will be balanced, and your game will work better.
Story Ideas: Endless Possibilities for Immersion
Gamification is more immersive and creates more motivation when there is a story behind it; when students are attempting to complete a quest, or rescue the land, or fins the evil murderer. Give them a problem to solve, and as they become more invested in your story, they also become more invested in your class.
Theme Elements: “Dressing Up” your Gamification
This is the fun part! Choosing a theme for your gamification will help students become invested in your game and your story. Choose a theme that makes sense with your subject, or that can change to match. When you choose your overall theme, like “Wild West,” for example, then match up little things to go with; bathroom passes will be to the “watering hole,” quizzes can be “standoffs,” and the library could be the “saloon.”
Steps for Gamification Success!
Be confident! Go Boldly!
1. What are the standards I have to meet? (Everything must be built around meeting course/standard requirements)
2.How can I layer Gamification over what I already do?
- “Playful Planning:” how do I take these old activities, like notes, quizzes, labs, etc., and make them fun?
- “Flow:” find the area between to challenging and too easy.
- 3 “C’s:” Content, choice, challenge
- Purpose-Driven Language: Using the same language educators use when talking to students; they’ll have a deeper understanding of why
3. Know your Players
- Test for player personality and create groups accordingly
- See information about player types
4.Design your “Big Game Elements”
- See information about Big Elements
5.Theme your class
- See Theme Elements information
6.Choose a story
- This gets students invested
- See Story Ideas information
7.Choose your game mechanics
- Badges, Experience points, items, etc.
- See Game Mechanics information
8.Add in side quests
- Mini-games, challenges, etc.