Engagement Through Game Design

Like most children, I grew up playing games. My mom loved to play games and many of my fondest childhood memories are of playing games with her. If my mom grew up in today’s game environment, she would be considered a serious gamer. None of my friends have stories of their mom waking them up at 1 and 2am just to play Backgammon, Gin, Spades, Bid Whist, Dominoes, Monopoly, Life, among many others. Throughout my teen years, electronic one player games became available. I remember the handheld football, baseball, and basketball games by Mattel. I would play handheld games just to see the lights on the screen when a touchdown was scored or a grand slam was made. Because a growing number of our students are gamers, infusing game design elements into the process of teaching the basics of publication guidelines seemed practical.

So what do we mean by game design? Are we talking about games based on popular game shows like “Wheel of Fortune” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” that help review course content? That’s one way to engage learners who prefer to be physically involved in learning activities. In this case, game design elements are those aspects of games that keep the gamer motivated to finish with a high score and even replay the game to see if they can beat a reigning high score.

Game design elements increase the entertainment value of an activity. One New Year’s eve, I remember attending a dinner theatre with great game design elements infused into the evening. The event started with a dramatic scene in which a character is found dead. The scene included several characters, each with their own motive for possibly killing the dead character. Throughout the evening, dinner guests interacted with the characters and other guests to uncover clues and figure out which character was the killer. It’s the game design elements that we wanted to infuse into the learning object to facilitate learning publication guidelines and recalling them as needed.

There are several elements to good games and not all of them need to be incorporated into every learning experience. This APA learning object incorporates context, a goal, challenges, and feedback.

Story Conveys Context for Learning APA

  • Context: The Scarlet Citation story provides the context the learner needs to understand the purpose of successfully completing the seven mini quests.

  • Goal: With the primary purpose of learning the style format of their discipline, the goal is to re-enter the library created by the Writer. In so doing, students learn proper title page, document, citation, and reference list formatting.

The Goal is to Master Seven APA Topics

  • Challenge: To successfully complete each quest, the student has to view a two to three minute video tutorial on each of seven publication style elements followed by a brief activity. Wrong responses delay progress toward the goal.

  • Feedback: While completing the activities, the learner will encounter encouraging and corrective feedback along with a summary of the learned content. Instruction is provided throughout the learning object, whether the student answers correctly or incorrectly to support mastery of the learning outcomes.

What additional game elements might enhance this learning object? What are your favorite game elements and how do you use them to support learning outcomes?