Principles of Meaningful Gamification

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There are different forms of gamification. Sebastien Didering has a great YouTube video all of the different forms:  Sebastien Diderding's principles for meaningful gamification.  In my new RPG choose your own adventure course, I employ a Four-Square Blueprint form of gamification:  (1) Activities or Tasks = Assignments in the form of Learning Quests, Side Quests and Gathering Skills; (2) Points = Marks in the form of Experience Points = Participation Marks, Reputation Points = Participation Marks, Skill Points = Graded, Badges = Awards, Digital badges/trophies, and Leaderboards.

The three secret ingredients required for effective gamification, according to Diderding are: 1. Meaning; 2. Mastery; and 3. Playground Autonomy. I discuss the first two ingredients below with reference to my course design.

First, Meaning.

I meet the "meaning criteria" by embedding my entire course in science fiction lore, a back story surrounding the game.  Students are Resistance Rebels and I am an alien, named Criticare, Resistance Alliance Leader. Together we are saving earth from a brainwashing alien race from the planet Propagandus, who have infiltrated position of powers on earth, are brainwashing humans with the aim of taking over planet earth. Below  is the lore that appears in the Course User's Manual:

"Dear Resistance Rebel,
If you are reading this message, that means you decoded my secret message embedded in York University’s websites and found your way to me. I am the Leader of the Resistance Alliance. My name is Criticare. I am an alien from the planet Propagandus in the most distant orbit ever seen by humans. This is my planet: http://www.space.com/23858-most-distant-alien-planet-discovery-hd106906b.html. I have taken on a humanoid form to communicate with you.

I am not the first of my alien race to communicate with humans. Propagandans first came to Earth in the 1920s with the aim of controlling the minds of humans and overtaking planet Earth via brainwashing. Propagandans have successfully made their way into positions of power across the world in Earth societies. My alien race uses propaganda, political education, and socialization to mold attitudes, to inculcate certain beliefs and minimize or destroy others. Propagandans successfully use, in varying combinations, the tools of reason and emotion, logic and faith, persuasion and coercion. In short, all central aspects of political indoctrination.

In the early 1980s your time, I was overcome by guilt and felt intense moral responsibility for what my alien race was doing to the people of Earth. I wanted to do whatever I could to help save planet Earth from being taken over by my people. With this aim in mind, and in order to inform myself of my peoples’ progress, I first came to your planet in December 1987. Taking on human form, I posed as an investigator and infiltrated an American Philosophical Association Committee making a systematic inquiry into the current state of critical thinking and critical thinking assessment. As a member of this committee, I helped to conduct research and generate a research report called “The Delphi Report.”
https://assessment.trinity.duke.edu/documents/Delphi_Report.pdf.

Fortunately, I was never found out. In spite of a few close calls, I managed to remain undercover. I was part of a panel of critical thinking experts who conceptualized critical thinking in terms of two dimensions: cognitive skills and affective (emotional and attitudinal) dispositions or habits. The Delphi experts and I found remarkable consensus on the descriptions of each of the skills and sub-skills. I have assigned abbreviations (letters and numbers) to symbolize each of these skills.

“The Delphi Report” inspired me to assemble and train a Special Operations Unit of skilled, Critical Thinker Resistance Rebels to help me gradually work towards saving Earth from mind control. Upon reading the final version of the report, I saw what I had to do. I handpicked you to be a part of my Special Operations Unit to save Earth. I have set up an online Command Centre, disguised as a Moodle course site at York University, Toronto, the home base of all Special Operations and training of Resistance Rebels. At Command Centre, you will find: a Training Hub, Guild Platoon Halls, and a Supplies Barrack." And so on...you get the idea.

The point is that effective gamification needs to be grounded in significance for the players, while, simultaneously, players (or learners in the case of my course) also need to be driven by the urge to be meaning-makers.

Second, Mastery.

Gamers and learners need to be driven to master skills during the game, to level-up. In my course, in order to become master critical thinkers in just 23 classes and help me save the world, Resistance Rebels must work through 4 levels of training:

Level 1: Arguments. Apprentice Critical Thinker - Weeks 1A—7B

Level 2: Concepts. Adept Critical Thinker - Weeks 8A—9B.

Level 3: Text Passage Analysis. Expert Critical Thinker - Weeks 10A—11A.

Level 4: Verbal Argumentation. Master Critical Thinker - Weeks 11B—12B.

Moreover, Resistance Rebels earn Experience Points, a kind of participation mark that can be gained by completing weekly participation tasks and assignments throughout the course. Experience points are measurement units that correspond to critical thinking (CT) Cognitive Skills and Sub-Skills and the Affective Dispositions of Critical Thinking in the Delphi Report mentioned above, part of the lore.

Reputation Points are a second kind of participation mark can be gained through being involved in this course. Reputation Points reflect your amount of involvement in these Special Operations, the degree to which Resistance Rebels are involved in saving the world. The more students participate, the better reputation as a critical thinker is earned, a reputation for being someone who cares about saving the world from mind control. There are 5 Reputation Standings:
Neutral. If you gain 0 to 59% of all possible Reputation Points at a given level, then you will earn a Neutral Reputation status due to lack of involvement in the training and Special Operations.

Friendly. If you gain 60 to 69% of all possible Reputation Points at a given level, then you will earn a Friendly Reputation status due to very little involvement in the training and Special Operations.

Honored. If you gain between 70 to 79% of all possible Reputation Points at a given level, then you will earn an Honored Reputation status due to much involvement in the training and Special Operations. Reaching the status of Honored Reputation earns your name a place on the Reputation Leaderboard.

Revered. If you gain 80 to 89% of all possible Reputation Points at a given level and earn a Revered Reputation status, then your name will be added to the Reputation Leaderboard and you win the ability to be exempt from having to do some of the training that other Resistance Rebels will need to complete. For example, if you have a Revered Reputation, then you can skip Phase 1 of the Level 1 Individual Learning Quest and jump to Phase 2, but still earn the same Skill Points.

Exhaulted. If you gain 90 to 100% of all Reputation Points at a given level and earn an Exhaulted Reputation status, then your name will be added to the Reputation Leaderboard and you win the ability to be exempt from having to do some of the training that other Resistance Rebels will need to complete. For example, if you have an Exhaulted Reputation, then you can skip Phase 1 and 2 of the Level 1 Individual Learning Quest and jump to Phase 3, but still earn the same Skill Points.

Resistance Rebels also earn Skill Points, graded marks that indicate earned marks for skills learned. All Learning Quests and some Side Quests are graded assignments that earn Skill Points that convert into a percentage of graded marks out of your final mark.

Students complete Learning Quests and Side Quests, learning tasks completed on their own, individually, or in groups or learning teams (Guild Platoons) for rewards. The rewards are Experience Points, Reputation Points, Skill Points and digital Badges (awards, trophies).