Taggame design

Professor Abandons Grades for Experience Points

XP

A professor at Indiana University has instituted a system of gaining experience points through classwork instead of receiving traditional grades.

Lee Sheldon is an accomplished screenwriter and game writer, having worked on TV shows like ST:TNG and Charlie’s Angels as well as the Agatha Christie series of games from The Adventure Company. He now teaches game design courses for Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications. Instead of assigning his students a grade at the end of the course, he instead starts every student at 0 xp and they earn points through completing quests like solo projects and quizzes in addition to grouping up for guild projects and pick up groups. How many points they have at the end of the course determines their actual “grade.”

Sheldon put the system in place so that his students were motivated by the game theory with which they were familiar. “The elements of the class are couched in terms they understand, terms that are associated with fun rather than education,” Sheldon said.

Escapist Magazine: Professor Abandons Grades for Experience Points

I could see this being a little more granular as well – awarding points in specific areas. At the end of the course, students could really assess where their strengths are. Over the course of a larger program of study (2-6 years or whatever), “experience points” in certain areas would really start to stack up. Having a bigger assessment of strengths would be more useful than a GPA or a list of pass/fails.

My alma mater Evergreen State College works something like this. You take only one class at a time. Each class is worth 16 credits, and the credits are usually spread across a few different areas. For example, I took a class called “Science of Mind” which awarded credits in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and statistics. If you don’t meet the objectives for one area of study, say statistics, you might lose credit for that subject, ending up with only 14 credits that quarter. There are no grades, so your GPA doesn’t suffer, but you won’t have as many statistics credits.

However, having a more defined set of areas that one could accumulate points over time through different classes and projects (“written communications,” “leadership,” “technical problem solving,” “mechanical aptitude,” etc. etc.) seems like it would be very useful for both the students themselves and for potential employers or graduate program committees or whoever else might need to evaluate a students strengths.

Gaming the real world – John Robb on Jane McGonigal’s TED talk

However, at this point the presentation breaks down. McGonigal then proceeds to think of ways gamers can be used to do things (which plays well with the users at TED). While I give her props for thinking about ways to generate ideas on how to fix global problems, she entirely misses the big idea.

Here’s the big idea. For active online gamers real life is broken. It doesn’t make any sense. Effort isn’t connected to reward. The path forward is confused, convoluted, and contradictory. Worse, there’s a growing sense that the entire game is being corrupted to ensure failure. So, why play it?

They don’t. They retreat to online games. Why? Online games provide an environment that connects what you do (work, problem solving, effort, motivation level, merit) in the game to rewards (status, capabilities, etc.). These games also make it simple to get better (learn, skill up, etc.) through an intuitive just-in-time training system. The problem is that this is virtual fantasy.

So the really big idea isn’t figuring out how to USE online gamers for real world purposes (as in the dirty word: crowdsourcing — the act of other people to do work for you for FREE — blech!). Instead, it’s about finding a way to use online games to make real life better for the gamers. In short, turn games into economic darknets that work in parallel and better than the broken status quo systems. As in: economic games that connect effort with reward. Economic games with transparent rules that tangibly improve the lives of all of the players in the REAL WORLD.

Global Guerrillas: Online Games, Super Empowerment, and a Better World

See also:

How to make an addictive video game

Jane McGonigal interview at WorldChanging

How to make an addictive video game

human sized hamster wheel

Cracked has a surprisingly interesting article on the psychology of rewards and how it’s applied to game design:

Do you like your job?

Considering half of you are reading this at work, I’m going to guess no. And that brings us to the one thing that makes gaming addiction–and addiction in general–so incredibly hard to beat.

As shocking as this sounds, a whole lot of the “guy who failed all of his classes because he was playing WoW all the time” horror stories are really just about a dude who simply didn’t like his classes very much. This was never some dystopian mind control scheme by Blizzard. The games just filled a void.

Why do so many of us have that void? Because according to everything expert Malcolm Gladwell, to be satisfied with your job you need three things, and I bet most of you don’t even have two of them:

Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day);

Complexity (so it’s not mind-numbing repetition);

Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work).

Most people, particularly in the young gamer demographics, don’t have this in their jobs or in any aspect of their everyday lives. But the most addictive video games are specifically geared to give us all three… or at least the illusion of all three.

Cracked: 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted

(via Social Physicist)

Jane McGonigal interview at WorldChanging

NY cryptozoo

Above: People playing CryptoZoo

Suzie Boss: For the uninitiated, what are alternate reality games?

Jane McGonigal: When people think of computer or video games, they often think of playing in a virtual world that doesn’t exist in reality. But alternate reality game designers are trying to get people to play in the real world. We want people to bring the same curiosity, wonder, and optimism that you feel when in your favorite video games into your real lives and real problems.

SB: Your games sound pretty different from commercial products like World of Warcraft.

JM: There are two big distinctions. First, alternate reality games are not in a virtual environment. They’re built on top of social networks, so we use ordinary online tools like online video, blogs, wikis, and being part of a network. It’s not about graphics and avatars. Second, it’s real play and not role play. You don’t adopt a fictional personality. You play as yourself.

SB: Do your games actually change how people act in real life?

JM: CryptoZoo is a good example of a game oriented to changing your everyday behavior. I developed it for the American Heart Association with the mission of changing the way people think about physical activity. Right now, many of us think of physical activity as requiring you to carve out an hour and changing into your gym clothes. You think you have to go to a special place to sweat. It feels separate from our everyday lives and not integrated into what we do when we’re hanging out with our friends. CryptoZoo inspires people to say, let’s be active for the next five minutes. We teach people to see real streets, real parks, real physical environments as opportunities for playing the game.

WorldChanging: Jane McGonigal on Gaming for Good

Create your own video games with new DS game making game

Once you draw the objects that you’ll want to use in your game, you can jump into the programming tool, which asks you plain-language questions about what you want your objects to do. For example, when I put my main character dog Otis onto the screen, the game walked me through these steps:

1. Which frame of animation should I start out displaying?
2. Where should I be? Should I be alone, or attached to another object?
3. Should I be placed in exactly one spot, or in some general area?
4. Where/In what area?

Wired: Game About Making Games Takes Nintendo to New Heights

Wired: Made in Ore’s Game Design Process, Explained

Games as work

This is “human computation,” the art of using massive groups of networked human minds to solve problems that computers cannot. Ask a machine to point to a picture of a bird or pick out a particular voice in a crowd, and it usually fails. But even the most dim-witted human can do this easily. Von Ahn has realized that our normal view of the human-computer relationship can be inverted. Most of us assume computers make people smarter. He sees people as a way to make computers smarter.

Odds are you’ve already benefited from von Ahn’s work. Like when you type in one of those stretched and skewed words before getting access to a Yahoo email account or the Ticketmaster store. That’s a Captcha, which von Ahn developed in 2000 to thwart spambots. Or there’s von Ahn’s picture-labeling games, which have lured thousands of bored Web surfers into tagging 300,000 photos online — doing it so effectively that Google bought his idea last year to improve its Image Search engine.

Full Story: Wired

(via mathpunk)

Superstruct Review: Unplayable, Unwinnable, Still Awesome – Skilluminati Research

The reason I opened this with the Nick Douglas joke — aside from the fact I thought it was funny — is the fact that all of the best content from the Superstruct project grew outside the original petri dish. Most of the best brainfood wound up growing on the Tumblr platform, which makes sense…I would especially recommend The Gupta Option.

In fact, the Superstruct information works so much better on other platforms, I’m kind of confused why they’d take the time to code up a clunky site in the first place. Check out the Reconstruct Ning page — it handles every aspect of usability and information design better than the actual site. Much like the Obama campaign, the best thing to come out of Superstruct is the community that it created. To me, that’s awesome enough to still give Jane McGonigal, Jamais Cascio and the rest of the folks at IFTF credit for a job well done.

Superstruct Review: Unplayable, Unwinnable, Still Awesome // Skilluminati Research.

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