Shifting from an emphasis on ethics to thinking past the current fad (and pitfalls) of “ gamification. ”
3 main points of the talk
This year at Cs, Samantha Blackmon referred to herself and her gaming audience as “...those of us who do games...”
Which reminded me of the ways Kurt Squire talks about gaming – not as a knowing , but as a doing . And that resonated with me as a scholar of literacy, rhetoric, and composition. Last year, at this conference, I presented a paper called “Writing Games: The Playful Rhetoric of World-Building.” I began that presentation by arguing that because games and the classroom share a common meta-structure,
that it is important that we make this common basis explicit.
I have “ gamified ” my classrooms, in radical ways.
I have established sidequests and quest hubs.
I have created levels through which my students progress as they complete the work of the course. Each level brings new “abilities” that students can use on themselves, their work, or, for some abilities, on each other.
I have compiled achievements boards, on which my students can graphically and iconically chart their progress. They can also compare themselves with their classmates. And they do. Compulsively.
I have created courses in which students write their way into, through, and eventually out of simulation games.
I have puppetmastered Alternate Reality Games that my students have collaboratively written and then played in my classes. And I’m not going to lie to you -- for all the work that requires (and it requires a lot of work), I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun in a class as I’ve had teaching these.
But the more I gamify my classes, the more I realize the inherent temptation to fall into category confusion.
I can gamify the classroom. And I can gamify the activities that happen within the classroom.
After all, there’s science... I mean, WRITING to be done.
And my students respond enthusiastically -- writing pages and pages of wiki articles, blog posts, posters, flyers, brochures, videos, presentations, letters, memoranda... (285 wiki pages in one semester!)
I bring this up because, for all our talk of gamification, and for all of my love of games, the more I do this the more I am convinced that literacy isn’t a game. Composition isn’t a game. The core cognitive and social activities in the game-ed activities resist.
Think about the complexity of the best writing you do. It’s like trying to think about how to move each muscle in your legs to walk. (QWOP) Certain games are good at teaching certain people to do certain things. Usually involving a lot of manual dexterity, thumb-gymnastics, and not standing in fire.
Imagine the complexity and variability of a game that could put you through a tutorial level of writing a good journal article. The glass bead game? Eschaton? But I’m not ready to throw out gaming the classroom. Here’s why.
The gamelike aspects are all there in service of, to establish and maintain, the sense of playfulness that I want my students to bring to their engagement with the coursework and with each other. Of course, I’m not alone in gamifying my classroom. Have you read the program for C&W this year? We’re all awash in the rhetoric of gamification.
2009 – GAMIFY WORK!
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivation – they seem to get it.
Offered without comment.
2011 – GAMIFY LIFE/THE WORLD
Extrinsic/Intrinsic motivation, again. But notice her word usage here.
Again, notice the way she’s talking about this.
McGonigal <3 Bernard Suits.
But what’s Suits really saying here? There’s more to his definition.
McGonigal gets Suits from the work of Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman, who are quite aware that the most important part of Suits’ definition of games and playing is the LUSORY ATTITUDE, the playfulness, that fosters intrinsic motivation in our students, not the game itself.
Gamification is just the least subtle way of attempting to incite playfulness. And gamification has its discontents.
I’ve liked Ian’s work for years, and while there are things I really disagree with in his article, I’m not convinced he’s wrong to oppose gamification AS IT IS PRACTICED AND UNDER-THEORIZED NOW.
Gamification seems to achieve the motivational, productive, and creative ends we seek, but the game is a vehicle, not the goal. Nor is it a necessary means to our goals. Jane McGonigal keeps coming back to the word “ gameful ” in her book, and talks about how PlusOneMe is a “ gesture ” toward games. She ’ s dancing around the word playful .
Not in a silly, reductive sense, but in the sense that Mihaly Csikszentmihayli means in his discussions of “flow.”
In 1978, the eminent psychologist of play, Brian Sutton-Street called together a high-powered group of other psychologists of play to have a round table discussion about play and learning. The papers they presented, and the discussion that ensued are collected in this book. 2/3 of the way through the discussion , Mihaly Csikszentmihayli drops this bomb and brings the conversation to a standstill.
Prompting Bruce McCall to throw out their previously agreed-upon working definition and reformulated it to reflect what they all agreed was more important – the experience of playful play, rather than game play, as a way of entering a state of flow -- meeting challenges with skill.
But we’re not focusing on the experience of playfulness. We’re enamored with games and fighting over games: What they are What they do What they could do Who is entitled to work with them
What made my students’ work exciting in my gamified courses wasn’t that they were playing games, it was that they brought creativity, energy, and imagination to their writing. They were playful.
So which comes first: playfulness or games? Do we need games to call forth our playfulness, or do we play games because we’re playful? Psychology and neuroscience suggest that our playfulness ossifies into rule-bound game play.
What I’m interested in facilitating with my students is not rule-based. It’s not about learning the rules of the game and figuring out how to min-max the game. It’s about learning the rules and choosing to break the rules in interesting, creative, imaginative ways. It’s more than just emergent play, it’s playfulness. It’s the sort of playfulness that turns every game into Calvinball.
And that’s the sort of playfulness that reaches the core needs and rewards of literacy. Because literacy, composition, and rhetoric at their best, richest, most evocative and provocative, most subtle, most piercing, and most insightful, are most certainly playful. Don’t stop playing games. But if we want to move beyond the fad pedagogically, cognitively, and affectively, we must turn more of our engaged, creative, imaginative minds toward the fundamental dynamic, not merely one of its triggers.
R parent c&w 2011 - the playful classroom - beyond gamification
“ the Playful Classroom: Beyond ‘ gamification ’” Richard E. Parent University of Vermont [email_address]
1) Composition isn’t a game. 2) Playfulness > Games. 3) Literacy is an inherently, beautifully complex, playful activity.
“… those of us who do games…” – Samantha Blackmon, CCCC 2011
Kurt Squire “ Video Game Literacy: A Literacy of Expertise. ” Handbook of Research on New Literacies . 2008. <ul><li>“ Games push our theoretical notions of learning and literacy, firmly unseparating knowing from doing.” (647) </li></ul><ul><li>“ To be literate in the gaming medium means to be able to do things with games; one cannot imagine claiming to be ‘literate’ with games, yet never having finished a game (or substantial portion thereof).” (646, emphasis in original) </li></ul>
Teachers present challenges to students, who meet those challenges with their skills.
Byron Reeves & J. Leighton Read Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete . Harvard Business Press, 2009. “ This book is about a new idea -- incorporating the power of multiplayer games in the redesign of work, making work more engaging and making workers more productive.” (vii)
Byron Reeves & J. Leighton Read Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete . Harvard Business Press, 2009. “ This book is about a new idea -- incorporating the power of multiplayer games in the redesign of work, making work more engaging and making workers more productive.” (vii) “ For anyone convinced that engagement is a key ingredient of the future of work, games are the definitive model.” (4, emphasis in original)
Byron Reeves & J. Leighton Read Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete . Harvard Business Press, 2009. “ In other words, we think people should benefit from game ideas while they are making money for shareholders , not just while they are getting ready to make money for shareholders during training or school.” (4-5, emphasis in original)
Jane McGonigal Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World . Penguin Press, 2011. “ The real world just doesn’t offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures, the thrilling challenges, and the powerful social bonding afforded by virtual environments. Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively. Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy.” (3) “ Reality, compared to games, is broken.” (3)
Jane McGonigal Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World . Penguin Press, 2011. “ If the goal is truly compelling, and if the feedback is motivating enough, we will keep wrestling with the game’s limitations -- creatively, sincerely, and enthusiastically -- for a very long time. We will play until we utterly exhaust our own abilities, or until we exhaust the challenge. And we will take the game seriously because there is nothing trivial about playing a good game. The game matters .” “ This is what is means to act like a gamer, or to be a truly gameful person. This is who we become when we play a good game.” (27, emphasis in original)
Jane McGonigal Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World . Penguin Press, 2011. “ [Clay Johnson’s] Plusoneme isn’t a game -- there aren’t any built-in goals, and there are no restrictions on how you give or earn a plus-one. It’s like a gesture toward a game [. . .].” (148, emphasis in original)
Jane McGonigal Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World . Penguin Press, 2011. “ [...] the single most convincing and useful definition of a game ever devised: Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. That definition, in a nutshell, explains everything that is motivating and rewarding and fun about playing games.” (22)
Bernard Suits The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia . University of Toronto Press, 1978. “ [p]laying a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (41)
Bernard Suits The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia . University of Toronto Press, 1978. “ [p]laying a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (41) “ The attitude of the game player must be an element in game playing because there has to be an explanation for that curious state of affairs wherein one adopts rules which require one to employ worse rather than better means for reaching an end.” (38)
Ian Bogost “ Exploitationware. ” Gamasutra , 3 May 2011. “ [g]amification is a misnomer. A better name for this practice is exploitationware .”
Phaedrus Trans. Walter Hamilton PHAEDRUS: But I have been told, my dear Socrates, that what a budding orator needs to know is not what is really right, but what is likely to seem right in the eyes of the mass of people who are going to pass judgment: not what is really good or fine but what will seem so; and that it is this rather than truth that produces conviction. (around line 260)
Mihaly Csikszentmihayli “The Concept of Flow.” Play and Learning . Ed. Brian Sutton-Street. New York: Gardner Press, Inc., 1979.
Mihaly Csikszentmihayli “The Concept of Flow.” Play and Learning . Ed. Brian Sutton-Street. New York: Gardner Press, Inc., 1979. “ I don’t think play is the most interesting subject here. I’m really interested in flow as being the critical category. [. . . .] So play seems to be a culturally structurally form, or an individually structured form, for experiencing flow.” (268) “ Very simply, I wanted to study the experience of playfulness , rather than play itself.” (260, emphasis in original)
Mihaly Csikszentmihayli “The Concept of Flow.” Play and Learning . Ed. Brian Sutton-Street. New York: Gardner Press, Inc., 1979. Bruce McCall: “A global definition of play would suggest that play is meeting challenges with skills for the sake of making that match , the primary goal being to match skill with challenge.” (281)
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