Adventures in Gamification: Week 5 – The Hero’s Journey

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Welcome Back!

We are into week five of Gamification (Games in Education) from OpenLearning!  So far we’ve covered what are games and gamification, strategic uses of games, application in education and scenarios as levellers. This week we will learn about the Hero’s Journey before we cover our final week of the course – The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia.

The Hero’s Journey

What is the Hero’s Journey (aka Monomyth)? According to Wikipedia

In a monomyth, the hero begins in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unknown world of strange powers and events. The hero who accepts the call to enter this strange world must face tasks and trials, either alone or with assistance. In the most intense versions of the narrative, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help. If the hero survives, he may achieve a great gift or “boon.” The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, he or she often faces challenges on the return journey. If the hero returns successfully, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world. The stories of OsirisPrometheusMoses,Gautama Buddha, for example, follow this structure closely.

This structure is commonly used in myths, stories, 30 minute sitcoms and movies.  Walt Disney Studios have become experts in using the Hero’s Journey in their movies.  The video below reviews 5 popular movies from the 1990’s in relation to the Hero’s Journey.  See some of your favourite films again from a fresh perspective!

So how does this relate to Gamification and Use in the Classroom?

Well, besides the obvious use in literature classes, imagine inviting your students on a journey in which they worked through the various stages? How exciting would that be for them?

In K-6 classes, I can imagine this being super fun to create – a week-long journey that required completing tasks from various disciplines (math, geography, history, literature, etc) to gain the necessary boon (information) to resolve an issue in a mystical world and then be applied to the real world (i.e. by answering questions on a test or reflecting on what had been learned that week).


Perhaps you want to teach your class about the Statue of Liberty.Instead of telling the class that, you tell them they are going to solve a mystery about a world landmark – and by the end of the week, they should be able to tell you all about it.  But you don’t name the landmark.  In math, you give them special clues to solve that give the height or width of the landmark.  In geography, they solve problems that will lead them to places like Paris (where it was built), Philadelphia (where the torch was displayed during the 1876 World’s Fair), Boston (the city that nearly stole it from New York by making a play when fundraising stalled in NY), the Suez Canal (where it was originally designed to go – bet you didn’t know that!) In science, you cover metals, specifically copper (of which she is covered) and gold (which was planned). I could keep going….the ideas keep flowing!

We covered a lot more on the Hero’s Journey, but you will have to check it out for yourself!


Want to grab a learners attention? Use Superheroes!

By using age appropriate characters (real or fictional), learners may already have a “relationship” with the character and relate to them and their struggles.  They might be aware of gifts or special powers that the character has or is given.  They might even be able to see themselves as a superhero in your classroom metagame – with special powers being “granted” – perhaps for completing a gamelet (task or assignment) first or with the best answer.

There are so many things I could share about the wonders of using superheroes in your hero’s journey style metagame, but I really think you should take the course to learn more!

In Summary

  • The Hero’s Journey format is commonly used in stories, shows and movies.  Disney does this really well.
  • The possibilities are endless in using the Hero’s Journey in the classroom.  Remember: creating a challenge is a great way to get people to want to learn!
  • Known superheroes make it easier for your audience to buy into the story, empathize and start their own hero’s journey through your metagame.

Come back next week for Adventures in Gamification: Week Six – The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia!  From my quick peek ahead at the topics, it’s custom-made to suit the program!!



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