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MA Game Design: Gamification

Hello again!

I am super tired this week, but luckily I have the game design classes to break up my week and make one of the days exciting! I've not felt this drained in some time, its even making it hard for me to come up with designs and ideas for a group assignment I have at the moment.

Unrelated, my dividers are back! I've missed my lines separating my blog sections...



To start this week's classes off, we looked into the topic of gamification and what it means. It seems I was the only one in the class who had come across this term before; I remember it being used a lot in the banking & finance world, especially for banking apps. In short, gamification is the process of taking game-related components and applying them to typical mundane / everyday tasks to make them more fun and engaging. The goal behind this is to improve user engagement and make these activities, which we normally find boring, more enjoyable and stimulating.

This isn't a particularly new concept, its been around for quite some time and is applied to all sorts of areas in life. In our class, we looked at how it could be applied to a learning environment to improve education.


Gamification & Early Learning

Our task was to research learning expectations for children in the U.K. completing English and Maths at reception and key stage 1 levels, followed by playing and analysing some online games that look to enhance learning at these stages. We examined several features:

  1. The aims & learning objectives

  2. The environment / graphics

  3. Game mechanics

  4. Scoring and rewards

I played a couple of games that were available on the BBC Bitesize website and made a note of things that I thought worked well and things that might have room for improvement. One thing I noticed that I particularly liked was that, in the early stages at least, it was not possible for the player (in this case, the child) to lose the game. Instead, they were allowed to keep trying until they got it right before moving on.

From here, we needed to conceptualise an idea using storyboarding to help convey the key elements. I had an immediate thought that might help with learning the maths required at this level by getting the child to help a builder create a house, taking some inspiration from Bob the Builder:

Maths learning game concept. The child would help a builder create a house by solving various maths questions.

Each maths question will be accompanied by piles of materials, like bricks, that each have a different number assigned to them. Each pile will have the amount displayed, so for example a pile of bricks showing "5" would have five bricks, a pile with "10" would show ten bricks, and so on. The reasoning is so that the child not only understands the numerical value to solve the question, but can also learn to associate the number with the quanitity of items - in other words, visually show them how many items you would have for a given number. If they get the answer correct, an animation would play to show the house being slowly built with some cheerful sounds and present them with various tokens, like a star. A bit like how we would be rewarded with stickers when we got answers right growing up. So at first, we might see the bricks form the base of the house, then the next question would show the windows being added, then the doors, until the whole house was finished.

If they got it wrong, a prompt would appear to tell them if they need more or less, with the goal of teaching them what more and less means when used with numbers. I think the principle of getting something wrong should be introduced only as a challenge that the child wishes to try; introducing features like a time limit or a lives counter as part of the base experience would only discourage them greatly if they failed to solve the problem under these constraints. They would feel that they are failing and it would start creating self-doubt, especially if they compare themselves to their friends or other children of the same age. Learning would no longer be fun, instead becoming a scary threat that they would want to avoid out of fear of getting it wrong. If you were trying to teach your child how to solve a problem, you would not say "no, that's wrong. Next question" the moment they gave an incorrect answer - you would want to help them get it right and help them understand why their answer was right or wrong. By removing this and allowing them to repeat until they correctly solve it, I believe it would keep learning fun whilst also helping them see where they were making their mistakes.

By the time one house is fully built, that particular topic will be marked as complete, allowing them to move onto a new house to build which will be slightly bigger and present new topics. In other words, one house will be built by identifying the biggest or smallest numbers, another house by adding and subtracting numbers, another for basic geometry, and so on. Houses will become more complex in size to represent the increasing levels, with room for including a challenge mode that uses lives or a timer for the child to test their knowledge.


Concept Design Presentation

Lastly, we needed to create little presentations to show our ideas to the class. I used PowerPoint to make a simple showcase of the idea with some motion to get across the general feel I wanted this idea to have:

Some imagination is needed since, well, it was a slideshow made in about 15 minutes, but hopefully you get the idea!

Since we were short on time, only a handful of students presented their ideas. Honestly, everyone had some really cool ideas, it was really interesting to see everyone's concepts and how they thought them up! There's some really creative people in the class which I think is great!


Closing Thoughts

That concludes what went down this week, it was a lot of fun coming up with designs on this topic. I've had some more ideas come to mind for the "Apart and Together" assignment which I am going to go through with my professor next week to get some feedback on. This should be a very fun task, certainly more fun than the group one! I've felt bone dry for ideas and motivation has been low in general for it, but I am hoping that will change up soon.

Anywho, thanks for reading, drive safe, and see you next week! Buh bye! :)

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