Book Review: SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully

This book will do a lot of people a lot of good. The psychology of games is powerful, yet, has received its share of criticism. But what if you could use the power of games to make people better. This is what Jane McGonigal set out to do when she wrote SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully. SuperBetter explored the science of healing and turned it into a game of healing. It is not only addressed games that help people physically get better but also tackles emotional, mental, and social issues. Read more

Book Review: Level Up Your Life

Life is a game, or it should be. Steve Kamb, a self-proclaimed nerd and gamer, wrote a book to show you how to turn your life into an adventure game. This book is Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story*. This book really resonated with me, and I am sure a number of my friends will find it as interesting. I discovered this book listening to a podcastRead more

Book Review: A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Theory of Fun for Game Design* is a deceptively educational book on the topic of fun and game design. Less on game design and more on fun. In 244 pages, Raph Koster provides his definition of fun, and outlines the importance of games for learning. Koster explains that we find learning fun, specifically, we enjoy problem solving and skills development. Games are a great vehicle for both, and they have been used since the beginning of time as a means of passing on survival skills — but times have changed. Read more

Book Review: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education

If you are looking for a reference guide on gamification, then look no further. Karl Kapp has just released his book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education*. This book is a great guide on the topic, and is packed with examples of research on the subject. Read more

Book Review: Game frame: Using games as strategy for success

I just finished another interesting book that focuses on gaming and gamification of the real world. Game frame: Using games as strategy for success*  is written by Aaron Dignan, the founder of Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm.

Game Frame is a 203 page book packed with useful information about games and gamification. Dignan spreads his observations across ten chapters or levels, a back story, and an appendix. In my opinion, levels eight and nine are the most powerful pieces of the book. This is where Dignan introduces the idea of the Game Frame and how to implement it to improve skill performance. Read more

Book Review: The Multiplayer Classroom

Recently, I finished reading The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game* by Lee Sheldon. In this book, Sheldon shares his experiences of gamifying his classroom. Having been a game designer, Sheldon set out to test whether or not game mechanics could positively influence the classroom. This book details the lessons he learned and the processes he explored. In the book, he criticizes current education methods and highlights strategies for learning that he picked up as a game designer. I like what he has to say.

In the introduction, Sheldon points out that games handle mistakes different than classes. In games, individuals can repeatedly make mistakes until they learn and conquer the objective. In schools, students are typically given one chance and the result is permanently recorded. Because gamer can explore different strategies, gamers are willing to take risks because the consequences are insignificant. They spend more time trying to negotiate problems. Games also have an element of fun. Children naturally play until they enter the education system, then the fun is removed and children are challenged to act like adults. Education takes what is natural and forces participants to conform to a particular mold. Everything is standardized. We even have standardized tests… where is the creativity.

Sheldon has turned his classroom experience into a game. He begins by adjusting the terminology used in the class. Game terminology helps create the correct atmosphere such as defeating monsters (quizzes), crafting goods (writing papers), and completing quests (assignments). Students take on gaming roles, create avatars, and join guilds to negotiate the monsters and quests. As students progress through the quests, they earn rewards, achievements, and experience points. With experience points, “gamers” advance through levels. Each level becomes increasingly more difficult and challenging. Throughout the process, student experiences are being positively reinforced. As Sheldon points out, everyone starts with an “F” unless they complete enough quests. From that point, gamers play their way to an “A.”

This book has a number of case studies where other teachers and professors explain how they are using Sheldon’s strategies with success. In these case studies, a number of great ideas are explained and can be quickly adapted for any classroom. Sheldon does a great job of presenting his syllabi and explaining why he made certain curriculum decisions. Sheldon and the other instructors note two important benefits from this change in instruction; students are completing more work than traditional classes, and students demonstrated increased quality because they could choose quests where they were proficient. To achieve this success in the classroom, instructors will have to put in more effort because there are more products to be graded and more products to be created. Educators must create enough repeatable assignments and rewards to replicate the feeling in a online role-playing game.

If you have read about gamification and are looking for ideas for implementing a game-based strategy for your class, I would recommend reading this book. It is a quick read with a myriad of ideas. But understand, this is not about using games in the classroom, it is about turning your classroom into a game.

References

Sheldon, L. (2011). The multiplayer classroom: Designing coursework as a game. Boston  Mass.: Course Technology  Cengage Learning.
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