Gamification, Gamer Personality, and Match Making

Back in 2010, when the concept of gamification was new to most of us, I remember trying to add game elements to my classroom. I remember being further inspired to do so my amazing TED talks from Dr. Jane Mcgonigal in 2010 and Gabe Zichermann in 2011. I remember discussing it with others in a group lead by Jeff Mummert. At that time, we felt like we were building gamification experiences out of duct tape and baler twine. Occasionally, we would discover a tool we could “splice” on to our classroom, but more often than not, our IT departments would block that tool almost as soon as we began using it.
Most gamers today are a combination of player types.

Today, we are blessed to have myriad gamification tools for education available. Some of my favorites are Classcraft, ARIS, and Edmodo’s Badges, but there are a lot more. All of them scratch a specific gamification itch. Some scratch many. None, in my opinion, cover all bases.

The Premise

I’d like to propose that the most successful gamification systems are modelled after MMORPG games or MOBA games. This is not because these games are the most popular with students (most of mine play FPS games almost exclusively), but rather these games create the most loyalty (some would call it addiction, but I’m sticking with loyalty). If you want to see a group of strangers really collaborate in a deep and lasting way, don’t send them to a one-day team building exercise at the local ropes course. Instead, force them to play an MMO together for a month or so. These games create the most lasting bonds and loyalty because they appeal to multiple types of players and multiple tendencies within players.

Richard Bartle, co-creator of MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), the text-based predecessor to today's MMORPGs, formulated the theory that all players of multiplayer games could be broken down into four main types: achievers, explorers, killers, and socializers. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is a lot like a Facebook quiz that tells you which celebrity you are, but in this case, it classifies players of multiplayer online games (like MMORPGs) into categories based on their gaming preferences.
  • Achievers (diamonds) seek the opportunity to show off their skills and display elite status to others. They love to earn obscure achievements, collect badges, and earn and display unique titles. They also enjoy having the coolest looking gear.
  • Killers (Clubs), closely related to achievers, revel in the joy of pitting their skills against an actual player-controlled opponent and decimating them.
  • Socializers (hearts) begin filling up their friend / allies list as soon as they start meeting people in game. They immediately look to join or start a Clan, Guild, or other kinship in order to form friendships and help others. These gamers are on Discord even when they're not playing.
  • Explorers (Spades) find combat, levels, points, and achievements to be secondary to discovering a new world and solving it’s many puzzles and mysteries. These are usually the same kids who would learn all of your course content if left in the classroom with the text and an iPad. 
I'm going to go way out on a thin limb here and say that those of us who are sold on this idea that games and game elements are valuable components of learning design would totally run most of our day to day class activities through an MMO / LMS hybrid of some kind if we had one, but as no one is developing one of these for education, we use gamification tools. Many of us use a lot of them, because nothing exists that appeals to the whole spectrum of Gamer types. 
Gamification is not the same as game design, because it adds game-like elements to non-gaming environments. However, there is some overlap between game design and gamification design, and one area in which this is the case is with player types (Kumar, Herger, and Dam 2017).

An appeal for collaboration

As much as I'd like to call on Dr. Jane Mcgonigal to pull together an Oceans 11 style super team with Shawn Young, Gabe Zicherman, Jeff Kaplan, Alex Peters, and an amazing team of developers to make the next awesome massively multiplayer gamified learning management system, I know that is complete pie in the sky. For one the risk is too big and the payoff too small. Something like this would have to be a labor of love. For another, I don't think they have to, per se. What I would like to see is more innovative developers of educational content working collaboratively so that their tools can be combined in a more seamless way. Allow me to give just two of examples of how this can happen focusing on Achievers and Killers:

So, by now you know that I love Classcraft. I've written a couple of posts on it at this point. It's a great gamification app for teachers, and it does its job really well. I know there are others. If you teach Kindergarten, and you want to pretend that I'm saying "Class Dojo" or something else every time I say, "Classcraft", feel free. For now, I'll use Classcraft as my home base.

Kahoot is for Killers! 

In the car last night, my son was on my school issued iPad and noticed Kahoot, an app that I'm admittedly not overly thrilled about. He shouted, "You have Kahoot! I love Kahoot! I'm awesome at it!" I thought, "Of course you are. You are a killer." You see, Kahoot is a synchronous game based classroom response system played by the whole class in real time, typically used to administer quizzes, discussions or surveys to smartphones, iPads, etc. It's gamification in that it is a game show-like environment, but it is essentially a timed competitive quiz. Kahoot is as close to PvP (Player versus player combat) as you can get in classroom gamification.

So, here's a crazy thought: What if a tool like Classcraft had an element like Kahoot, or worked with Kahoot, much like it integrates with Google Classroom? Then students could challenge each other, or the teacher (Gamemaster) could hold massive PvP events and have the results reflected in some way in the students' character avatars. I would settle for being able to reflect a student's victories over his or her peers in Classcraft with some kind of PvP rank insignia (more on this in the next section). 


We do need some stinking badges!

So, badges have gotten a pretty bad rap lately in gamification circles. Heck, I have maligned them on more that one occasion. Badges and similar methods for reflecting achievement are key to the gamification experience of the Achievers. They not only want to go above and beyond, they want everyone to know that they went above and beyond. Yes, by awarding XP (Experience Points) and gold to students in Classcraft, they can gain new powers and customize the look of their avatars, but eventually everyone in class who is making an effort will be able to do this. There are no elite titles to unlock or rank insignias or special outfits that only can be gained by overcoming a specific optional challenge.

An example of an achievement badge in my class.


A very easy way to add this is through badges. I give my students badges through Edmodo, but most students don't look at them. Most students just compare Classcraft characters. Many have asked if I could give them badges on Classcraft, and I would love to, but that feature is not currently a part of the Classcraft ethos. Integrating with a tool like For All Rubrics or Class Badges would allow students to display different achievements with their character. Many badging platforms integrate with Mozilla's OpenBadges Backpack, but it doesn't always play well with others. For example, it's login process is complicated and it has no integration with any other services, like "sign in with Google".

Pulling Pie from the sky

As I mentioned earlier, if I had my druthers, I would make an awesome massively multiplayer gamified learning management system. Unfortunately, I m not a developer nor am I an entrepreneur. I do see a lot of promising stuff coming about though. 
I am in love with this project!!!!
  • I'm super excited about Tyto Online, a project by Immersed Games. Seriously, if they could get this thing off the ground, it would be beyond epic.  There is definitely a lot of thought going into the project and a lot of people talking about it.
  • Lucas Gillispie has some really awesome stuff going on over ad Edurealms, but let's face the fact that most of us are going to be fighting an uphill battle at best trying to get our schools on board with using commercial games in the classroom. 
  • There are a lot of companies trying to add gamification features to their LMS platforms, but from a very enterprise-centric private-sector perspective. I'd like to see what this would look like tailored for education.
  • Finally, while we're seeing a ton of educational games of actual good quality emerging, the only real attempts at adding the multi-player element has been by Radix (a project that is going nowhere fast) and Prodigy, a math game my 10-year-old son likes more than any other game on his iPad. 
How about it, #edtechbridge community?  What are the chances we can look for an MMO / LMS hybrid of some kind in the next couple of years?

What about you folks providing Gamification Platforms? Any chance you might be integrating some of your features in the near future? Have you ever considered having the discussion?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hey, Computer Teachers, stop wasting students' time! (Part 1)

3d Resurrection - Getting your Cube 3 Working again