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Author Topic: [A Game Called School...] Using Game Design Outside of Gaming  (Read 3400 times)
Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« on: March 10, 2011, 05:07:13 PM »

I'd like to use game design theory and principles to build a motivation structure for Real World applications.

(The short of this post is that I need better reward cycles. Somehow games blast mine out of the water.)

For example, I think there's a lot of potential to use game design principles to approach education. People hate school, but the average WoW player plays 20 hours a week and pays for the opportunity to do so. However, WoW used to have a ton of grinding- what if you could use a similar approach to entice students to study?

I think that there's an insane amount of potential here. I'm not kidding. WoW and other games have caused divorces. My friend plays 60 hours a week of various games- he's brilliant, how the heck did these games manage to dominate him so?

In November 2010 I began a 2 month project to upgrade my high school courses by completing 4 courses (Chem, Physics, Math and English). I'm really bad at studying- I've NEVER studied in all my school days. I game a lot though- I got to thinking that a lot of games are more or less achievement simulators, of the "surrogate activity" sort.

I tried to build a study structure based on WoW, Torchlight, D&D, and other games. The primitive system is as follows:

If these games are achievement simulators, they're acting as "good jobs." According to studies:

A good job:

1. stretches a person without defeating him
2. provides clear goals (SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, tangible or something)
3. provides unambiguous feedback
4. provides a sense of control

Whatever system I use would have to challenge me- I could use constant testing for the feedback per subject. I could run ahead of the curriculum to stretch myself. I use weekly goal cards which I can collect to make my goals very clear and specific. I also have a degree of control by rushing ahead- I'm not quite under the control of a teacher's pacing.

I had a poster to track my weekly hours-studying quota, by subject. On it I was also a weekly progress quota for each subject- usually one unit. It took a few weeks of practice but I managed about 40+ hours, on target, every week.

Next to it I had another poster with card slots in it- on each card was the name of a unit that I had to complete. I could see the entirety of my future problems all together. There was also a box, by subject, for "achievements." Each time I completed a unit I added that index card to the little box for that subject- these little cards accumulated as I went.

I also gave myself a little index card for every solid hour I spent studying. I seriously struggle to study- these were my little crappy rewards, 1 per hour, to dig in. After counting the cards I ended up with about 300-400 hours over those 2 months. I finished my classes with 96, 95, 92 and 80. To get into my university program i need about a 76% average.

I've never studied before, I couldn't believe that this cheesy scheme worked.

***********************************************
I'd like feedback on ways to improve or change this system to make it more compelling. My specific problem is this:

In these games you're rewarded for your efforts in concrete ways that measurably benefit you and make you better at what you're doing. It's a great reward cycle. However, my study system's reward cycle is lacking. The little index cards aren't working as well this semester. I need a better reward mechanism/cycle- I've hardly gotten anything done in weeks, which makes sense since the rewards are lousy. I need a better reward system.

***********************************************

Any other feedback is also welcome. I posted this here because I think I might actually get useful ideas/feedback here.

Nate
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Baxil
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2011, 05:31:39 PM »

Congratulations on its success thus far!

Off the top of my head, one major reward cycle you're not simulating is the MMO aspect of the source games you cite. A major component of MMO rewards is that, not only do you level up or get the Spatula of Hoodwinking +12 or gain the skill to craft lime green hair dye, but you also get to show it off and have your skill recognized by other players. Some games have explicit leaderboards, others just let you gawk at the color-coordinated Level 99 elf chick next to you, but in all cases there's a strong social component.

If your motivation is flagging again it may be time to see who else you can convince to join in with you.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2011, 06:15:54 PM »

You might want to check out chorewars, as a similar approach.

In terms of real world applications I think the legal system and labour/'capitalist' systems in real life are like crappily made games. I sometimes wonder if people play wow etc not for fun gameplay, but since they actually slot into a life, with social connection, that is actually ordered. One where the capitalist dream of anyone can make it to the top isn't simply bullshit marketing, but actually the case. While in real life people bullshit themselves they can 'get a job', when, unless they have mind control powers, they have no such capacity - the game that is entrenched does not empower them that way at all. I'll quote an author I like "Whenever somebody says, “You’re lucky to have a job,” what they are literally saying is “You’re economically powerless – be thankful!”". Of course in real life a designer can't just make resources and currency poof out of thin air like wow does to power it's wish forfillment, but since plants grow food in a relatively predictable manner that can be designed around, currency can atleast grow on trees, even if you can't make it poof into existance from nothing.

Just thoughts to broaden the spectrum of possible real world applications.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2011, 06:41:50 PM »

Hey Nate,

However, my study system's reward cycle is lacking. The little index cards aren't working as well this semester. I need a better reward mechanism/cycle- I've hardly gotten anything done in weeks, which makes sense since the rewards are lousy. I need a better reward system.

You're in the deep end now, man. Two books I recommend. Reality Is Broken, by Jane McGonigal. And Punished By Rewards, by Alfie Kohn.

Paul
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 06:45:10 PM by Paul Czege » Logged

"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2011, 09:55:40 PM »

Quote
Reality Is Broken, by Jane McGonigal. And Punished By Rewards, by Alfie Kohn.

If I only had time to read one of them, which would you suggest?
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2011, 05:31:53 AM »

Read the first third of Punished By Rewards, skim around through the rest, and then switch to Reality is Broken.

Paul
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2011, 09:15:22 AM »

Hiya,

This topic is extremely interesting, but it needs to be honed a little to fit the requirements of the forum. Please post a link to an external rules document of some kind.

Best, Ron
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2011, 08:08:46 PM »

External rules document... let's see... does this count?

My original idea, from November:
http://projectsettlingdust.blogspot.com/2010/11/games-as-achievement-simulators.html

minor refinement
http://projectsettlingdust.blogspot.com/2010/11/wow-and-little-goals.html

Actual System in play, old version before updates
http://projectsettlingdust.blogspot.com/2010/12/old-and-new-time-budgeting.html

I'l working out the kinks in a current version. The structure is based on a few system diagrams I recently drew, I can link to it as soon as I complete it.
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2011, 02:13:53 AM »

Here's the most current version I'm using:

http://projectcloudbuilder.blogspot.com/
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2011, 06:19:19 AM »

Beautiful! Thanks.
Best, Ron
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happysmellyfish
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Posts: 49


« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2011, 04:51:14 AM »

Games are optional. Work seems mandatory.

I've just started my first full time job, and it's absolutely grinding my will to live. I feel as if I don't have any say in my life. I get up at 6am and I get home at 6pm, absolutely wrecked. But I have to do it; this whole series of events is forcing me to get a real job. Games, on the other hand, are frivolous. They're a time sink and a money sink and the whole endeavour is just something I'm doing for the heck of it. It's like, no matter how messed up the world is, I've going to spend my Saturday afternoon pretending to be Batman. How could that not be MY decision?

The reality, of course, is that I do have a choice about my job. I found it, I secured it,  and I make the second-by-second choice to stay there instead of playing basketball. Unfortunately, I've also fallen into "bad faith" by believing I'm forced to be at work. Those moments when I remember I do have a say, I feel a little less like an object, like some piece of crap kicked around by the world.

I'm at work because I want to be, damn it, and I'm going to clock off and go home wrecked because I've made that decision. This brings a lot of psychological stuff into play - pride, ego, responsibility. All more interesting than my earlier sense of grinding predetermination.

We always choose what we do,  it's just easier to identify that a choice has been made in some activities. Games are so obviously frivolous that the outside world CAN'T be forcing them on me. They must be something I really, truly want to do.

Try reminding people that they've chosen to be at work or university or wherever. They'll rethink that decision, and (presumably) reaffirm it. Which is to say, Sartre is Smartrer.
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2011, 09:42:21 PM »

Quote
We always choose what we do,  it's just easier to identify that a choice has been made in some activities. Games are so obviously frivolous that the outside world CAN'T be forcing them on me. They must be something I really, truly want to do.

That's true.

There's a motivation structure in work and in games. In the case of work it takes the threat of homelessness and the incentive of pay to bring you in- and, usually, people do it. There's a concrete, hour-by-hour reward (though often NOT pay-by-quality mechanics). It mostly works by punishment.

Games, by contrast, can't easily punish you for not playing. Many people will pay to play them, and sacrifice other activities. My D&D group keeps cancelling their other activities to play, and one is arguing with her boss so she can get sundays free for out weekly games. Games succeed brilliantly with their motivation structures.

I think at first I was mistaken to use WoW as a model for a study schedule. WoW rewards you for investment- not for accumulated ability. In the case of school specifically, you're rewarded mostly for ability and performance- with a lot of investment as well.

I think games like Warcraft 2/3, Starcraft, Quake Live, and other "skill" games might pose better models. I'm starting with Quake Live.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2011, 12:41:10 AM »

Well there is soimne research indicating that rewards don't really work.  An experiment in the UK giving students money or what amounts to toys to study was abandoned after it nhad no discernable effect.  I think that the "reward" structure that applies in most games is the ability to exert control over your own actions and to make your own decisions - precisely the experience we don't get in school or in work.

The problem with with happysmellyfish's argument is that you can rationalise any formm of compulsion that way.  If you were mugged at knife-point you could choose to say that you voluntarily gave up your wallet rather than be stabbed, but I think most people would experience that as coercion.  Much the same applies to most employment; you work or you starve, that's not exactly a free choice.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
happysmellyfish
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2011, 03:23:04 AM »

Quote
The problem with with happysmellyfish's argument is that you can rationalise any formm of compulsion that way.  If you were mugged at knife-point you could choose to say that you voluntarily gave up your wallet rather than be stabbed, but I think most people would experience that as coercion.  Much the same applies to most employment; you work or you starve, that's not exactly a free choice.

You're right, the whole argument rests on accepting existentialism's claims about free will. (For what it's worth, Sartre would just say "Stiff crap, you always have a choice. Stop making excuses.") But that's not really what I was bringing up. Rather, my point was that because games are so clearly disconnected from daily necessity, they are a rare moment to reassert ourselves as decision makers. I believe this sense of meaning-making is hugely rewarding in itself, and something missing from most work places.

Quote
I think that the "reward" structure that applies in most games is the ability to exert control over your own actions and to make your own decisions - precisely the experience we don't get in school or in work.

You seem to be agreeing with me here.

On the whole "work as game" front, I can't help but feel our society is a little impoverished these days. We used to have a whole bunch of systems - apprenticeship, craft, masterpiece, tutelage - that made the process exciting and meaningful. They're just ideals, sure, and olden-day workplaces would have been hellish places. But the ideals still exist: as guides, treasures, everything they always were. It's a way to make work fulfilling.

I guess in practical terms, what I mean is you could possibly research old fashioned ideas about work, before we all became alienated from our labour. There might be some proven motivational tools there. At a guess, I'd say the master-apprentice relationship is super important.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2011, 03:44:11 AM »

Well, I'm agreeing with your second last paragraph, and disagreeing with everything else.  And it is fair to say that there may be structures in pre-industrialised forms that play a more positive roll, although I would agree that you shouldn't get carried away with over-romanticising them.

I suppose what I was trying to say is that there is a big difference between doing something you really choose to do, and doing something becuase you have to do it.  There is a much higher success rate in adult education than in school education, because adults who return to education usually do so with clear goals and personal motives, rather than experiencing school as an imposition over which they have no control and to which they do not actively consent.

So in this sense I agree that is worth bearing in mind the bigger picture, even if you struggling with something you are obliged to do here and now.  But I just don't accept the rhetoric that everything and anything is a choice to which we consent; other humans are indeed capable of imposing compulsion, and for most of us that is the dominant experience of life and work, for which escapism serves as a substitute.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
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