Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gaming Dynamics and Using Games in the Classroom

OK, so a lot of my posts lately have been very………. I don't have the word I need here. So I will get right into the post, and if you have the word I am looking for put it in the comments below (please don't use the word 'boring' to describe them :D)

I was talking to Shane tonight on Skype about my latest post, about what I was planning and why. He put a massive cat amongst my planning pigeons, so much so that they have all flown away, figuratively speaking of course.

He obviously has done a lot more reading than I have on the topic of games, and the psyche of gamers. I am just a game player, not a game designer, I have had not training in it, but gee I feel like I am being schooled at the moment. Not in a bad way, I am loving the discussions around what I am currently doing, what my issues are with it, where I want to take my teaching and the path I want to take to get there.

So after the discussions a couple of posts ago with Randall, I had a semi-solid plan of what I wanted, and how I was going to achieve it. Then I read that article that I mentioned in the last post, and my semi-solid plan became a not very solid plan. Now after discussions with Shane tonight, I now have no plan, at least no plan for creating my next project.

I do however have an idea of where to start, Shane mentioned the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, and the four main categories of gamers. He asked whether I had ever; a) sat the test myself and b) given the test to the students I am working with. The answer to both was of course a no. So he gave me a brief rundown on what each 'personality' wants out of the games they play. He also pointed out a pretty major flaw in my whole teaching in Minecraft at the moment, which is a valid point, and not one I had considered.

This is why I love having a collaborative community to discuss my ideas with, there are so many opinions and so much experience out there that I am consistently blown away by the support I receive. Anyway that is an aside, the flaw is purpose, or the lack of purpose I 'give' the students for completing the lessons I provide in Minecraft, and probably a lot of other lessons also. I think this is why I am not getting the 'buy in' from students and their progress through the task is limited due to this lack of 'effort'.

Don't take that the wrong way, I don't actually blame the students here, this is a flaw in my planning. I have a purpose in mind for both myself and the students when I work through these lessons with students. My purpose is to push my own teaching boundaries, give the students something different to do, perhaps something interesting and fun, but still learning what they need along the way. I also think that my purpose for the students has just been 'the learning' but that is clearly not how games work, at least not for all of the students that are involved.

So, now, without a plan for the actual project I want to complete, how do I get started? I think, when I get a chance, I will get the students to sit the Bartle Test, gather their results and use those to inform my decision making in the development of this project. So of course this has pushed back the project even more, to the point where it may not happen until very near the end of the year. I still hope to have a really good project to use with my students, and of course share with the community, but more importantly I want this project to be something the students can be proud of at the end, something that they can share what they achieved with others to give them the purpose that has been missing.

So here are my current goals for this project, perhaps a bit large, but I am going to aim to fulfil as many of these as I can.

Game like: I want this to be as much like a game as possible, this will require me to have a wide range of activities to suit the wide range of gamers I am sure a present in my class, while still allowing all students to achieve the 'outcomes'. (Note that I did not say the same learning…. I don't think all students need to achieve exactly the same learning, however I need to have a set of outcomes that students will need to meet.)

At their level: All games have options for entering at the level you are at. I want to achieve this also, I want the option for students to buy in at a point where they currently are, and get challenged to push forward 'to the next level'.

'Secrets': I want students to be able to find additional information outside of my class (or the game) to assist them in progressing, I think this will only work for some students, but it is something I would like to investigate further, and what better way then having a go at it.

Purpose: I want students to see the purpose for engaging in the tasks, and for that not to just be "because Elfie said so." I want real purpose, this is going to be a massive step for me and quite possibly for my students also, this is something I am sure they will value, but it is not something that they are used to 'getting'.

Complete: So many of my projects are 'complete' to a superficial standard, and I don't mean superficial as in only on the surface. I mean, because of the nature of the way I plan activities at the moment, they are not as complete as they could be. I would like this project to be complete well before I use it with students, completely planned, annotated and possibly already shared with the community. Usually I will  share my projects throughout the planning stage here on my blog and then use my class as 'testers' to determine how well a task will work, tweak it (or at least have a good reflection on it) and then when I get time actually share the project as a whole (which hardly ever happens).

So I don't know how long this is going to take, I will try to keep updates flowing, but my first step is to analyse the types of gamers in my class, and then begin planning tasks around those different gamers needs that will fulfil the outcomes for this project. It is not often that I get two posts out in the one day, especially of this 'thoughtful' nature, so thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below.


  1. Hey Elfie, nice post as always. Just one comment: When Richard Bartle came up with his player type taxonomy, he was referring to MUD players, not to all game players. So, depending on the game genre, you might get other types of players with other types of motivations. Here is some good background reading in case you want to dig more into this:

    Still, it's good to have your students consider what type of player they are and think about their motivations for playing, so I like where you're going. Hey, maybe you can come up with an Elfie's Minecraft Player Types taxonomy and become as famous as Bartle!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your project!


    1. Thank Randall, in my reading I have become well aware of that, but Minecraft is kinda along the same genre (almost if you put your head sideways and squint a bit while looking into the sun :D) but I think the motivations behind those categories tie in quite well with what we were discussing on that other post.

      Also since it is a multiplayer game, and there are going to be interactions between players with different motivations, I think it is a good starting point for me to delve into this kind of thing, something I have never done before. This is something that I need to explore slowly and figure out how it ties into my educational practice.

      If I look at the change in my lesson structures in MinecraftEdu since I began near 3 years ago, there has been a massive shift, and I think I am beginning to 'lose' some of the characteristics that make lessons fun, mostly because I am so focussed on the content (the nature of curriculum sadly).

      So if I can shift my thinking a bit, into what makes games enjoyable, and makes gamers want to engage and THEN put those kinds of ideas into my lesson plans (both in and out of Minecraft) I think I might get more to where my lessons are fun and engaging but also have the level of learning I would like to see for the time I put in to designing them.

    2. Randall….. I don't like you anymore. Just kidding :p. I have done some of the reading, and I wish I had a definitive answer (as I am sure we all do) about how to progress. (You may not have read my next post yet) But I thought I was back to a semi-solid plan, and then you give me more information. Keep doing it by the way, I love having my thinking prodded.

      The readings you just pointed me to open up a whole new slew of ideas and thoughts to try to tie in. I still think I am heading down the right track with this, considering my main reason for doing this is to try to get more 'buy in' from my students, I think looking at how games entice players to come back is definitely a step in the right direction.

      Thanks again and keep it up :D

    3. Hey Elfie, I think this is great that you're documenting your thinking process to share with others teachers who also make it where their "lessons are fun and engaging but also have the level of learning I would like to see for the time I put in to designing them" (well said). The first part ("fun and engaging") is difficult enough, but when you add in the second part ("high level of learning"), it makes the design process much more difficult. IMO, It's why good educational games are much more challenging to design than everyday entertainment games.

      To me, it still comes back to finding the right intrinsic motivation for the students (or each student). Have you seen Nicole Lazzarro's 4 keys to fun framework (http://4k2f.com)? She presented at the Serious Play Conference last week, and I had an interesting discussion with her about how her 4 keys seem to map well with the SPAM intrinsic motivators that I referred to earlier (Social relationships, Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery). The graphic of her framework she has on her site is terrific - maybe you could share with your students.

  2. First I read your latest posts (about the Dragon Story and your wife) and got interested. I also had some input for you but I thought you might had some other interesting points so I should read them in order. And hell yes you have a lots of interesting thoughts!

    In this post you have put words on my thoughts how to solve my own courses I will have. For some reasons I was thinking inside the box how I myself have been learned but this morning it hit me I had to go OUTSIDE the box and include Minecraft.

    As English is not my mother tongue I has some issues to phrase myself (and using google translate is perhaps a fast way but not always gives a right translation. Something I learned with reddit.com this morning).

    I don't want to steal your thread or blog hehe, but if you could give me some input of my thoughts here I would be most grateful.

    I will be able to purchase MinecraftEDU this fall (starts next week) so it might be easier to solve those things I ask help for :D