Gamification/ Serious Games Concept Document Free Resource

So this is a pretty short post today, but one that a friend suggested I put this up as a resource online for others. I use this as a way to gather my thoughts all together when I’m planning on developing an application (it works for both games and gamification by just changing some of the wording). I also give this to my students to help them think about the details they may need to consider in the pre-production phase of making a thing! Feel free to use and modify as you like to fit.

The making of the World War 2 tribute curiosity box: Unsung.

Ive previously blathered on about my love of all things curiosity box related. And Im finding that the more I experiment with the ideas of exploration and the use of perceptual curiosity in Higher Education, the more I fall in love with the idea of returning to this childlike state where multi-sensory play is thought to be just as much an important part of a students learning experience as the ‘traditional’ lecture. Last year, I was lucky enough to present at the fantastic conference; Gamification Europe. It was an amazing experience and I met some brilliant people in the industry! I would urge anyone interested to think about going to the next one, and to maybe watch the videos of the 2018 conference which you can find their YouTube channel here.

Whilst I was putting together ideas for something to talk about at this conference, it became quite clear that what I really wanted to talk about was this idea of perceptual curiosity that I found kept creeping into the kind of games that Im interested in. *** I think there will be a video of this talk flying around at some point which I shall update here with at some point ***

So what is perceptual curiosity? Well, here’s an except from a paper that is in progress:

‘Early work into the study of curiosity (Hume, 1777; Berlyne. 1954), recognised that there were in fact differing types of curiosity. Berlyne proposed that curiosity was either that of epistemic curiosity; the seeking out of intellectual information or the “drive to know”, or, perceptual curiosity; sparked through visual, auditory and tactile experience or the “drive to experience and feel”. In light of these differing examples of what triggers curiosity, we as educators, can begin to imagine rich-learning experiences that are through exposure to a range of sensory stimulants.’

The idea of all of the senses being integral in the process of engaging students to achieve their highest potential, is just something that appeals to me on a very fundamental level. But anyway, as my research progresses into this, I am experimenting with these different types of narrative/puzzle-led mystery box experience. Long story short, I decided to make a little mystery box concept to present at the conference. I wanted to begin to move away from the usual talk about specific mechanics and design processes of games and gamification and look at more the experience and emotions side which of course includes curiosity.

Previously I had been working on a concept surrounding WW2 with two students at Coventry University. We wanted to build something that would be a conversation about some of the more unknown factors of what happened in WW2. So the next bit is full of spoilers about what the box is about, but also describes the development process for anyone who is interested in how it was made.

OK. So. I have been quite focused recently on trying to highlight women’s achievements and work that has previously gone unsung (see what I did there) or buried or downright ignored. What this box is really all about is raising awareness that women played a crucial role in helping to win WW2. Particularly in their role at helping crack ENIGMA at Bletchley Park, the home of the Codebreakers. This box, is a little exploration of some fictional correspondence between Margaret Rock, a prominent female decoder and her brother John Frank Rock, a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. This box is really just a little concept and to be honest, a learning experience for me, to try and find that sweet spot of non-linear story-telling mixed with some different puzzles. I wanted the story to feel organic, in which I mean, I wanted people to not have to ‘get’ the puzzle elements, in order to feel like they ve experience the game. Im not sure if this has managed that though. But anyway, let me describe the design process.

My loose objectives for creating this experience, was that I wanted it to be an awareness building exercise. I wanted people to be aware that their were such women working at Bletchley park tirelessly to decode the German messages coming through, alongside more known names such as Dilly Knox. I also wanted this to potentially be an experience that may inspire girls into the conversation that women were and have been working in STEM for a very long time. So with those loose objectives, I began some research into the women that were based at Bletchley. There were many fantastic candidates to try and tell their story, but in the end I opted for Margaret Rock, as I felt I could build a nice narrative around her and her brother sending letters to each other. As this was going to be more of a ‘ lets talk about some names, things that happened’ type of approach, I started to plot some very basic ideas that I could work some basic puzzles around..

*Who is Margaret Rock? *Blechley Park what/where? *John F Rock *ENIGMA *Dilly Knox *Abwehr *Mavis Lever

In this process, it became clear that I wanted part of the experience to be players having to look up what these words or people were. Touching on developing some interesting research skills and piecing the story together as a nice side bonus.

I went on a bit of a spending spree to get various items that I thought would be cool. Artefacts that were real and were part of that WW2 narrative. I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted, but in the end after a good search of EBAY and Gumtree, I found some very cool items. Including the authentic WW2 Gas Mask.

As it came in this gorgeous strapped bag with lots of pockets (inside and out), I decided that this was going to be the ‘box’ for the experience. I thought about how could I start the story with just this as the artefact, and in the end it made sense-ish, to tie a tag onto one of the outside straps with the following words:

Could someone please catalogue this item? No information immediately obvious, other than it is from World War 2. I need this off my desk ASAP!

Hopefully this statement would be vague enough to not give too much away, but contain enough information that it was obvious what the player was supposed to do with it.

The items that i then hid inside the bag along with the puzzles were made up of the following:

  1. An authentic gas mask (Which is so much fun to put on!)
  2. A locket
  3. A torn picture of Bletchley Park
  4. A newspaper from the time
  5. 2 handwritten letters inside envelopes
  6. Note on field/waterproof paper

And the puzzles/ story that ties all of these bits together are:

  1. The gas mask bag itself is quite integral to the process of feeling and finding all of the interesting stimuli. As it has loads of pockets, I used this to my advantage and hid all of the items in random parts of the bag. Including under a bit of foam, and then under the newspaper there is another small popper compartment in which the locket is hidden.

2. The newspaper, the locket and the two letters are a puzzle. A line, word, letter cipher otherwise known as a ‘Book Cipher’ is used for ‘Margaret’ to send secret messages to her brother. The newspaper acts as the text that both Margaret and John would have had access to. Inside the locket, hidden behind the pictures is the key to the Cipher as seen below. Each message is timestamped to each one of the letters it came from to give an idea of time passing and events.


3. The torn picture of Bletchley Park has written on the back of it the Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates of its location. This is a very simple puzzle but effective, as once someone works it out they can type it in to search and they will be presented with Bletchley in all its glory.

4. The pictures in the locket are also part of the clues. The male is an actual picture of Margaret and Johns father – If you look closely enough you can see his hat, a clue! Surgeon Frank Ernest Rock, R.N., lost his life on the Laurentic…

5. Note on field/waterproof paper is written from LDR J E Benham, a officer above John. If people go searching for this information they should bring up information regarding John.

6. Gas Mask – so the gas mask itself has a few puzzles. Firstly and probably my favourite, even if it isn’t completely in keeping with authenticity is the visual puzzle. I put red cellophane into the eye sockets of the gas mask and created a piece of paper with words hidden under layers of red and yellow type. When you look through the gas mask you will be able to see the hidden message on this paper. I do want to make this more in keeping eventually, but i got a bit excited about players looking through the red filter. If you want to know how to do this, go here.

7. On the gas mask canister itself I have also scratched in morse code: ENIGMA as seen below:

8. A code on the canister – By fortune there was a number sequence that was written on the outside of the canister of the gas mask in numbers, which serendipitously matched the exact number of letters that made up John’s full name. So i did a bit of a home brew cipher based on the Pig Pen Cipher in which when you work it out gives John’s full name. The paper was hidden in the inside of the canister.

9. Finally, and very simply, a little hand drawn visual puzzle on one of the letter envelopes. That when you tip it a certain way you can hopefully see the letters: ROCK.

And thats it. The idea is that the puzzles and narrative can all be pulled together in any order the players want. And that its not vital that they find all of the information, but that they enjoy the journey of exploration around the artefacts. Its also supposed to be a team activity, so that the players can discuss when they’ve found, go searching the internet, and hopefully feel curious enough that they fall in love with finding out the secrets of the bag! But mostly, I hope that people will come away from the experience having felt they had a glimpse into this pairs of siblings navigation through the war, living apart and in fear. And that maybe it will start some conversations further and spark curiosity about the women that also worked tirelessly in these conditions for the war efforts for often less recognition, thanks and praise.

Video Dev Diary: The Making of a Serious Game – Entry 1

So I’ve decided for a couple of reasons to make a video dev diary of my next personal project. This is partly to keep me motivated and partly to act as some sort of guidance to people who are interested to see the process (at least my crazy process) in creating a game. Expect ramblings and swearing and me being generally stupid. But maybe this can help others like me who just need to get out of their own heads, stop procrastinating and start making. Short one today…. still figuring out what it will be based on.

The making of a Library Induction Game with RPG Maker MV.

***** Open Source files of game can be downloaded here: http://gamify.org.uk/downloads/Book-Runner-Source-Files.zip under CC license: Edit and modify for own use, cite Disruptive Media Learning Lab as Original Creator. *****

*** Game Playable here: http://libinfo.coventry.ac.uk/Induction/Lib/WWW/ ****

I have been a busy little bee the past few months. Aside from the usual tirade of ALL OF THE THINGS to do (being mum to two very small and boisterous children, general life and sadly unexpected death, insane work commitments, writing all of the academic things), part of what I wanted to try and push for more this year, was creating things. Actual, playable things. Not just my usual, ‘oh I though up a cool project idea’, which I tend to do a lot, get distracted and then jump to something else.

So a few months ago, maybe four, we had a guest lecture from one of our Scarborough Campus colleagues, Mark Richardson. He gave a talk that showed how he had been using RPG Maker MV to develop some interesting games with learning outcomes for nursing students. Following this, he also gave a half day tutorial on how to get to grips with the basics of RPG Maker. I have to say, from here on out i was slightly obsessed. It was nice to find a tool in which much of the work had already been done (perfect for someone like me who gets distracted easily). It had pre-made art and the logic programming of it was simple to understand and use. now the nice thing about RPG, is that you can make all your own art and dive into Javascript programming if you want, as it supports all of that high-end stuff, but if you just want to make something relatively quickly and maybe don’t have those skills, bam… you have the power as they might say, because it has all that built in. As a side note – this has been great for getting me interested in Javascript, I think I might do a small course, time permitting of course.

Myself, Becky and Darren (Two of Coventry Uni’s Subject Librarians) had been talking about making a game for induction. To be honest, I’d wanted to work with the librarians for years since I’ve been at the DMLL, but as always there was never any time. But it seemed, that with this program we could develop something fairly quickly. There was much discussion at first on how and what we wanted the game to achieve, whether it should be a blend of digital and real world activities or did we want the students to play it at home. What we all agree though, was that the game should be story driven (I’ll get to that later).

So Darren and Becky went away to discuss what they wanted out of the game and came back with a series of learning objectives that we then prioritised with 1 being vital and 4 being nice to have.

Category Learning Outcome How?
Orientation IT Services Mini task – finding it
Orientation Sigma Mini task – finding it
Orientation CAW Mini task – finding it
Orientation Group Study Rooms (that they exist) Mini task – finding it
Orientation Rovers Podium Mini task – finding it & source of help
Orientation 2nd Floor Enquiry Desk Mini task – finding it & source of help
Orientation Subject Librarian Office Locating it, then more additional tasks
Orientation Mobile Shelving Include it if we can make it some sort of puzzle (mvoe the shelving to get to another location/NPC)
Online Orientation Library Basics Libguide Code on Libguide – should be an early task?
Online Orientation Libguides Code somewhere on a guide
Online Orientation Twitter page Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Facebook page Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Youtube Channel Codes hidden on pages
Online Orientation Document Supply
Online Orientation YouChose Place request for specific dummy book, reply with code?
Online Orientation Referencing Guide Code on Libguide
Library Skills Construct a reference in CU Harvard Making the reference provides a code (e.g. first letter of each part?)
Library Skills Find a book in the library Finding a book in the game’s bookcases
Library Skills Find an eBook Dummy eBook on Locate – code within book – also covers navigating an eBook
Library Skills Find an article on Locate Dummy article record on Locate
Library Skills Reserve a book Reserve a dummy book within the game, collect it later.
Knowledge Loan limit is 20 items Character giving quiz?
Knowledge Books can be borrowed for one or three weeks Character giving quiz?
Knowledge Fines “Character giving quiz? / X owes 60p, how late was he?”
Orientation Self issue machines Some sort of game/puzzle using the machines?
Online Orientation Accessing databases Dummy dragon -slaying libguide
Knowledge Support offered by subject librarians Interaction with in-game characters?
Knowledge Support offered at service desk and enquiry desk Interaction with in-game characters? (If you get stuck in the game you can always go to the enquiry desk?)
Knowledge Support offered by Rovers Interaction with in-game characters? (If you get stuck in the game you can always find a Rover?)
Knowledge SCONUL
Knowledge Postal Loans end game – i live far away

They had also given some suggestions on how this may be realised in the game which was really useful to me. as previously mentioned, we also spoke quite a lot about narrative, and they had both put down a lot of different ideas for style and genre, which we discussed and came to a decision – we were going to do a take on 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of a creepy Hal, the Coventry University library system ‘Locate’, would take it’s place.  This gave us lots of room for including many geeky references and above all, we really wanted to try and instil the game with a bit of humour (whether people get the humour is besides the point).

So, we three, started working on a Google doc to flesh out the narrative, adding information where needed and having meetings to discuss interesting ideas that the player could do for each of the LO’s. It was great to work on a live document that everyone could share and edit, very useful in the design stage.

I wont go too much into the dev side as it was mostly me swearing at RPG Maker when I wanted it to do something and obviously it wouldn’t (I had complex ideas). But 3 months later – yesterday in fact, the main functionality of the game is now complete, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with it. Is it going to win game of the year? Probably not. Is it going to help students? Maybe… I’d like to think so. Here, take a look at some screenies.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 14.02.12

One feature on the dev side I will mention though, is that RPG Maker let’s you build in the function (quite easily) to open up separate resources like websites, videos or pictures. This feature has been really useful for allowing this game to support players navigating some of the library systems in order to solve puzzles to put into the game. See below for an example, where the player has been asked to go onto the computer in the game. Once the player interacts with it, it brings up Locate.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 09.21.03

Very useful! Anyway I love it, and and and … we made a thing that is a real thing and will hopefully be live for September students. I’m so happy that I pushed myself to get it done in time, and it is not one (of the many) other projects waiting for my attention (there is not enough hours in the day). Currently it is now in play-test mode, getting people to break it and see where it’s maybe not intuitive. Hopefully, we will then put it out to Beta test as it’s especially important we have testers who are not familiar with the library and it’s systems.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say, is that RPG Maker MV is a great tool for creating quick and easy game-based learning applications, and even better it has a MASSIVE support community if you do get stuck in development.

I’m hoping to do many more games with it and use this as a test bed to show our lecturers the potential that this program has.

The Compendium of Bothersome Beasties: A SPLOT for Self-Reflection & Formative Feedback

 

The link to the Compendium is here: http://creditcontinue.coventry.domains/beasties/

Following the pilot of Remixing D&D (find the original post here: Remixing D&D – Student Self-Reflection & Formative Assessment in a Playful Way.) there have emerged some interesting findings so far. Unfortunately, due to a number of issues with the way our AddVantage+ Module scheduling runs and time tabling (optional modules that run alongside core discipline studies), I was only able to test out the journal and monster reflection techniques. I plan on writing another post that talks about the trials, tribulations and unexpected joys of the pilot, but for now I want to show one thing that came out of the research so far.

Following the feedback from the pilot, the students indicated that the paper version that was being trialled, was a useful tool to reflect each week on the issues they were facing. They further went on to say that they would use their journal to help them write their final assessment piece at the end of the module. All good stuff and essentially what I was hoping for.

However, another thing that the students fed back on in our early focus groups, was that they wanted a more structured system. Something easier to manage. Something less faffy. Essentially, something online. This was great to hear actually, as I had always envisioned the reflection tool as an online entity, where students could access it at any point and I would have very little admin to carry out each week (yey to less admin!). Whilst I am sorry about the potential of no more physical journals (although these were also received very well by the students as they were beautiful things), it did affirm our suspicions that online was the way to go with this sort of edu exercise.

And so, our journey of the SPLOT began. SPLOT (Smallest Possible Learning Online Tool) was suggested to me by Lauren at the Lab (/wave hi Lauren) as a tool that could hold my rambling thoughts of somehow smooshing D&D and student self-reflection into a thing. After rambling in her general direction, and then at Cogdog (who is the dude behind SPLOTS), and then at Lauren again, we settled on a layout of what would become ‘The Compendium of Bothersome Beasties (and how to deal with them). Inspired by D&D, JKR and the wonderful Brian Froud, the Compendium is essentially a Bestiary of student problems.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 20.12.37

Although the Compendium makes up only a small part of what I had originally envisioned, I think it has an elegance about it (if I do say so myself) that allows students to semi-anonymously post their problems as ‘Beasties’ online. Students can be creative in how they frame their problems and the platform allows lecturers/ facilitators/ other students to comment directly on the post to offer formative feedback. We’ve added a system in which Beasties can be categorised into different types such as Motivation, Wellbeing or Confidence. This allows us to quick search Beasties under different categories, useful for a student who wants to see feedback in a particular area.

I really like this idea of having a tool that is a ‘quicktime’ event! And when students start posting their Beasties, a lovely arrangement of different problems can be available for others to browse and feel like they are not alone and learn from. Im really happy its live and *whispers* if you think its a tool you want to use, then good news – go ahead! Its free, you don’t need to sign up and I’d be over the moon if you would like to contribute to the Compendium. Im also very open to feedback and if you do use the tool I would love to hear your thoughts. I suggest reading through the ‘About’ and ‘Guide’ sections of the tool, but it really is very simple.

Next stage with this is to run a few trials with different course modules to find out how it is received in its online form. My plan is to slowly introduce some more of the core concepts I developed for the full Remixed D&D method. But for now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:  The Compendium of Bothersome Beasties (and how to deal with them).

Remixing D&D – Student Self-Reflection & Formative Assessment in a Playful Way.

Most of us working in the space of education know the importance of students being able to develop their self-reflection and critical analysis skills. I don’t really want to use this space to talk about that too much in depth as there is already a lot out there, but for those who are interested in the why’s, here’s some links for further reading about reflection:

Jisc Self-Reflection

Edutopia Self Reflection & Closings

And this is also the same with the likes of formative assessment. We know that students like and respond well to feedback that updates them over the course of their workings, rather than feedback purely at the end of their project/ module/ coursework, (where in my opinion it is almost useless at this point –  *ask me sometime about the lecturer that asked me to design something and then at the very end of the module told me i had done it all wrong and should have done it in a specific manner – annoying AF*). Thankfully we are not evil here at CU and constantly use formative assessment to guide students and ask them to think critically about the whys and hows of their work whenever we can.

Well in the true spirit of our new mantra in the playful and gameful strand of DMLL,*Remix Play* (you can find the workshop here: Remix Play Workshop), I decided to have a look at how we could make the formative assessment and student self-reflection process a little more playful. Being a huge D&D fan the following happened…

So how do you combine D&D with student self-reflection you ask? Well here’s my initial concept:

imgo

If you’re looking at that picture thinking huh? Then here is an outline of my concept in a more readable version in a step by step process that was envisioned.

Step 1 – Journals

Physical Journals will be given to each student in Week 1 of module (this can be upgraded to an online version after trial). Specially customised D&D character sheets sit in the front page of the journal.

Journals will provide a chance for ongoing reflection and can be used as evidence (by the student) to support their final assessment. Lecturers can also use these as an opportunity to provide written feedback and assess progress on a weekly basis if needed.

Step 2 – Roll Character Attributes

Students are asked to roll dice (just like D&D) and come up with a series of stats for their character ‘themselves’ attributes. Students are asked to reflect on their current strengths and weaknesses and assign their dice stats to each attribute.

Attributes in the D&D world are equal to Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma, Intelligence and Constitution. In this version, these attributes are assigned a real world context into the following: Motivation, Multi-Disciplinary Working, Creativity, Collaboration, Subject Knowledge and Mental/Physical Wellbeing.

Example: A student rolls the following stats: 12, 8, 14, 18, 10 & 11. After reflection they put their 18 into creativity believing that, that is where their strength lies and the 8 into collaboration believing that they are not very good or have had little practice at working in a team. 

This process should highlight where they may need to improve and give some thoughts for the next step.

Step 3 – Define Epic Quest and Outline Attributes to Work Towards

Students will be asked to think about why they chose the module and what is the main thing they wish to achieve at the end of it ie. ‘Epic Quest’. They will also be asked to identify two attributes that they wish to work on improving during their time on the module.

The completion of the ‘Epic Quest’ can form part of the final reflection task at the end of the module and should be done with the Dungeon Masters (Lecturers). Students should be encouraged to convince the DMs that they have succeeded in their quests, using their journals as evidence.

Step 4 – The Adventuring Party

No D&D adventure is complete without the adventuring party. In order to make sure we have balanced teams. Students are asked to stand in groups based on their highest attribute score. This should (hopefully) give a mixture of groups. DMs will then assign students into teams of four, combining students from differing groups to achieve a balance where possible. This will hopefully allow students to work in a more inter/multi-disciplinary nature.

Step 5 – Team Composition 

Now each team has hopefully four members in each, its time to let the students decide their individual roles. Students are asked to decide between themselves which role that they would like to take on.

Tank – This student is responsible for overseeing the projects final concept/product. They bring together the ideas and are a spokesperson for the idea. Think Product Lead.

Healer – This student is responsible for overseeing the team (think HR). They must manage the people and personal element of the team. This could be anything from moderating arguments to supporting a team mates physical/mental wellbeing. Think Team Lead.

Close Combat Support – This student is responsible for overseeing the execution and technical delivery of the concept/product. They ensure the team has a tangible concept/product to show at the end of the module.

Ranged Support – This student is responsible for overseeing the research and creative thinking element of the concept/product.

Whilst the team is split into four areas, teams will be encouraged to engage with all aspects of the modules project (research/execution etc.) but those members assigned a particular role should have a greater level of input when it comes to that particular area.

Step 6 – The Team Health Bar

Each team has a collective health bar. It is a visual representation of the teams performance in class and how they are working as a team. Parameters can be set for decreasing and increasing health.

Example: A student doesn’t come to class and has given no prior notification of intended absence – the teams health suffers -10. A student presents some research to the class that is a direct benefit to the their team +10 to their overall health. 

Team health can be topped up by coming a tutorial with a DM. When team health is low or failing, a team must attend a mandatory tutorial to heal. Teams that fall in the top tier of the health bar can be considered for extra credits/ whatever reward that can be applied to show that they have worked well as a team.

Step 7 – Weekly Self-Reflection

Each week, students will be asked after each core session to choose and reflect on each of the following:

Monsters

IMG_11122017_152832_0

Students will be asked to identify at least one problem concerned with the ongoing module work (this could be a personal development, team or project related problem) and they must pose a solution in order to defeat said monster.

Example: A students team has a problem with deciding on a particular issue to address with their project. Their monster is the ‘sludge of indecision’. The student then suggests that in order to overcome this monster, the team must meet on another day and make a firm decision on which issue they are going to concentrate on. 

Allies

SWORD

Students will be asked to identify at least one person/ type of person/ company/ Contact that may be useful to help their research and development of their final concept/product.

Example: A team proposes targeting a solution for raising awareness in student mental health. Each member of the team proposes a contact to talk to for research purposes, this could be for example a staff member from the Wellness Centre.

Treasures

TREASURE

Students will be asked to identify at least one resource that they may need to help the research, design and/or development of their concept/ product. Students will also be asked to identify how they will go about obtaining the resource.

Example: A student identifies that for their board game concept, the team would like some physical pieces for their prototype. The student then suggests they look at the 3D printing resources available at the University. 

Journal & Epic Quest Reflection

IMG_11122017_155748_0

Students will update their journal each week with the above sections, but also a section after that, that comments on their reflections of their personal progress in class and with an emphasis on how they are moving forward in pursuit of their Epic Quest and how they are working on approving their chosen and/or other attributes.

DMs can feedback in these journals and offer guidance and maybe a bit of story (if creative enough) on each students journey. They can also award skill points that can be spent in the Feat Tree (see below) and/ or offer suggestions in other ways providing formative feedback each week.

Step 8 – The Feat Tree

Each different attribute will have a series of ‘Feats’ attached to it.

Example: The Attribute ‘Motivation’ may have the following Feats – self-motivation, team motivation, self-identity, meaningfulness, needs etc. 

Students can expand into each of these attributes by acquiring Feats in the specific attribute section. Every two attribute specific Feats gained = 1 attribute point (in the Feat gained attribute).

Example: If a student wanted to improve their Motivation attribute score of 8, they would try to attain some of the Feats in the Motivation Tree section. Gaining two Feats attached to the Motivation Tree would give them an Attribute point in Motivation, thus raising their overall score to 9.

DMs can award skill points when they see fit. Alternatively a student can ask for a skill point but must justify why they should be awarded one, reflecting on their progress and recent contributions to their team and general progress in class.

Step 9 – Compare and Reflect with a Spider Graph

At the end of the module, students should hopefully have different attribute scores to when they started (again hopefully improved scores). Using a Spider graph (thanks Alex for this insight), students can see where they were when they started the module compared to where they are at the end of the module. The use of a Spider graph gives great instant visual feedback to a student and can be used as an aid for self-reflection and how they developed skills over the course of the module.

And there we have it. A system loosely based on some of the D&D systems but for aiding student self-reflection and a formative assessment process. At the moment this is just an idea but we plan on trialling this with our new Add-vantage module January cohort with some ‘proper’ research attached. If people would like to discuss this, Id love feedback and always happy to work with others to make this process better.

Finally just want to mention my colleague… the lovely Lauren Heywood, who helped to direct and design my ramblings of D&D into something productive.

Games as Therapy in Higher Education 

Mental health is a conversation that seems to be ever growing with more and more people speaking out about their experiences. Celebrities and royals have taken to talking about their struggles in order to raise awareness of issues such as anxiety and depression and even this morning, BBC news have reported on the fact that about 300,000 people leave their jobs each year citing mental health issues as the cause: BBC News. That’s a hell of a lot of people and a massive strain on the work force.

It’s no secret that academia is absolutely rife with depression and anxiety either: Academic Mental Health. How could it not be.. egos, work pressures, performance anxieties and just generally navigating the high level of criticism that comes with being in a higher education environment. Both staff and students are getting to the point where it is just too much… in some extreme cases there have been suicide attempts because of the inescapable feeling of pressure and despair. A very sad state of affairs and indication that we are failing somewhere in this space that is meant to be about nurturing and helping people to grow.

I myself am no stranger to the black dog and I know several others particularly in academia that are still fighting it. We joke and shrug and a lot of the time there is very much a ‘we ll get through this approach’ and yes, an acceptance that this is how it should be. But I’ve seen colleagues and students alike, question themselves, their abilities and their worth until unfortunately they then shrink away until you barely know they are there. It short… it sucks ass big time. I honestly don’t know how else to describe this seemingly growing problem. At least we are now beginning to see this talked about in the wider sense, because something somewhere has to change.
It did get me thinking though about how we  view and approach developing games for education. I know personally I’ve always been more interested in how can we use games and play to attain better learning experiences for our students. I am definitely of a mindset that deeper learning can be achieved with gbl. But I think maybe I’ve been missing a crucial aspect, another benefit of the use of games /play in higher education.. we and our students should play for our mental health. Both for an immediate outlet and for learning how to cope with these pressures for later life.

There are loads of people out there using games and play for therapeutic reasons. DnD for example is used to help children (and adults) to open up and explore their feelings DND therapy. Various studies have been conducted on how playful behaviour and playing games helps relieve stress and helps us to build relationships Play benefits.  It’s definitely not a new idea, just one that I never hear talked about when we consider games in colleges or universities. Feeling alone or unsupported with mounting pressures could possibly be helped just by feeling connected to other people for a short while…possibly. What better way than games to achieve this.

So maybe we, as playful and gameful developers in education should be actively looking to discuss and research the psychological benefits of using games and play in higher education both for students and staff alongside the traditional does this aid learning approach we usually adopt. I’m certainly going to be exploring this further and am quite interested to see what others are doing out there on this idea of using play /games as coping mechanisms in higher ed. It would be an interesting example to add to the list of usual things to say in response to; but why games for education? Maybe, just maybe… if we can use playful platforms as an outlet for stress, anxiety and depression, we may find some interesting avenues to help cope with the stresses of working and studying in higher education and thus arming ourselves and our students with some coping mechanisms for future work endeavours.

I have used all my spoons for today now.