Adventures in Gamification: Week Four – Scenarios as Levellers

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Welcome back to Week Four! So far we’ve covered the introduction and trying to define what a game truly is, the strategic use of games and applying games in education. Phew! We are now into week four of six and are investigating the use of scenarios as levellers.

What is a scenario?

From WikipediaIn the performing arts, a scenario (from Italianthat which is pinned to the scenery[1][2]) is a synoptical collage of an event or series of actions and events. In the Commedia dell’arte it was an outline of entrances, exits, and action describing the plot of a play, and was literally pinned to the back of the scenery. It is also known as canovaccio or “that which is pinned to the canvas” of which the scenery was constructed.”  
So a scenario sets the scene.  In video games, you often have an opening introduction or vignette that explains the mission or the premise for the game.  It’s what catches your attention and gets you to “buy into” the game.  When I think of the games I play regularly on Facebook, they all had a opening scene that was designed to catch my attention and tease me into playing for a few easy levels, which gradually get harder or feature a change in the conditions required to advance to the next level (more points required, more tasks to complete, etc).
How can you catch the attention of the learner(s) in your life?  By making things seem like an adventure! Check out Module 4 for more information!

Levelling Options

So, once you have devised a game, how do you keep in interesting?  Challenging?
As previously mentioned, you have to make it harder to advance or to complete a challenge.  This is done in many ways.  I will only review a couple, and you can find more when you work on Module 4 yourself!  Be sure to let us know what other examples you came up with in the comments below or in the unit forums.
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Weightings –  For example, ending a game on an exact throw.  Remember when Trivial Pursuit was played on everyones coffee table?  You earned your 6 wedges but couldn’t win unless you solved a final question on the middle cog.  If you rolled past the hub, you would answer a regular question and then wait for your next turn to try again.  Wasn’t it frustrating to get the answer wrong and have to roll all over to try again?
Abrupt Change of Conditions – You are mid way through a football (soccer) game and a teammate trips an opponent.  The Ref then awards a Penalty Kick to the opposing team.  Now you have to play by a different set of rules while the kick takes place, giving the opposing team a chance to get ahead. (See Law 14 for more information).
There were many more Levelling Options provided…I just don’t want to give away all of the secrets from the course.  I will share another secret though…I knew absolutely NOTHING about football (soccer) and had to research all of it to share with you!

Intermittent Reinforcement Schedules and Cognitive Dissonance

Perhaps you have heard of B.F. Skinner who was an American Psychologist who developed various theories – but one particularly interesting one was one that focused on Intermittent reinforcements.  This theory was tested on pigeons who were more prone to act when they could only sometimes get what they want.  Basically, strictly positive reinforcement wasn’t enough.  The withdrawal of rewards occasionally make the process more interesting and exciting.  Motivation and Human Behaviour….
Changes in the probability of reward can cause a change in motivating properties.  This partially explains gambling addictions.  Who are more likely to be driven by Chance?  Extroverts!  Introverts tend to want to be rewarded in a more linear relationship to their abilities.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort[1] experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction.[2] ~ Wikipedia

Long and short of it?  Having to earn the opportunity to learn means you will appreciate the learning all the more!
Want to learn more about the differences between men and women?  Module 4 has some interesting commentary!  Worth checking out and relating to your own life and the people in it!  There’s also a lot more information on Cognitive Dissonance…and a fun little project to do – see mine below!

In Summary

We covered a lot this week. Here are a few key points…but once again, not all of them!

  • Setting the scene provides the background info – can be realistic or far out there!
  • Making a game increasingly difficult keeps it interesting!
  • Earning the opportunity to learn makes one appreciate the learning more!

Next week we will learn about the Hero’s Journey, AKA the monomyth.  I admit to looking ahead a little…mythology is very interesting and I think I need to re-watch  a mythology based movie to see if I can apply the steps of the Hero’s Journey to it…perhaps Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief will do!  Don’t forget to add your projects and notes from this week to your Accredible profile and come back next Friday to find out what happens next!


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Adventures in Gamification: Week 3 – Application to Education

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Welcome back to Adventures in Gamification!  Previously in this series, we reviewed the Introduction of Gamification, tried to define what a game happened to be and talked about a few quotes from Tom Sawyer.  We also reviewed the Strategic Use of Games, discussing how to use gamification to reach adult learners, the magic of gamification, and the importance of maximizing the students participation and involvement and minimizing that of the instructor.   The first two weeks were exciting – let’s go on a journey through Week Three.

Remember back in Week One when we said it has to be challenging to be fun?  Well Tom Benjamin has made this week a challenging and fun thinking week!  I found the videos to be very interesting…yet each of them left me thinking and trying to puzzle through the next step.  The chase is on to solve the mysteries!

We start off looking at using principles from popular games and applying them to the school syllabus.


I distinctly remember the daily use of Hangman in my Grade Two class – it was the first thing we would do after attendance.  We’d each get a turn to guess a letter or to solve the phrase.  The phrases always had something to do with our work in one subject or another (now that I look back at it, what a great way to teach kids words like chrysalis and photosynthesis!) and thus, tied into not just language arts but science, social studies or health class too.  The joy of solving the puzzle and the disappointment in failing still sticks with me.  I can’t recall too many lessons from Mrs. Higgins Grade Two class, but Hangman…still makes me smile!  Oh – and the game did help me to become a very good speller (at least until the invention of spellchecker which ruined my poor little brain!).

We also looked at how changing one rule can change the entire game.  Prof. Benjamin gave an example of Basketball and changing the height of the net or adding in the 3 point line.  Now, this means nothing to me because I don’t really understand basketball, but I could relate it to hockey.  Every year the NHL Board of Governors and the Executive Board of the NHLPA have meetings in which they discuss changing this rule or that…one current rule change is changing the size of the trapezoid in which the goalie can play.  By increasing it, the goalies will be better able to assist defensemen and that will change the game.  Something that seems so small on the surface (Increasing one line by 4 feet) will be huge in the game.

How does that relate to education?  Let’s return to the Hangman example from Grade Two.  When we played everyone had a chance to either guess a letter or the phrase, but not multiple turns (which was great because I remember this one boy who would have played every turn!!).  I have since played the game elsewhere and the player could guess letters until they made a mistake (thereby not allowing everyone to have a chance to guess).  Small rule change, big impact on the students who might not have otherwise had a turn.

Games as Tests?

Using games in testing has caused some debate.  Can you get reliable results?  Turns out that if a few more games are played, then yes, you can get reliable and even somewhat predictable results.  Professor Benjamin gives a much more detailed explanation…but there is a connection to the number of baseball games played in a year!

Chaos…or Perhaps Just Unpredictability


Unpredictability…its the Zig to the Zag of an otherwise boring game.  It is the uncontrollable variables that makes it F-U-N!  Think about rolling the dice when playing Snakes and Ladders, a Chance card in Monopoly or saying “Hit Me” when you play Blackjack.  Or perhaps it’s the competition when playing chess or heads up Texas Hold’em…times when you have to figure out what the other person is thinking and going to do next. It’s hard to be sure and it leaves you a little nervous and uncertain, your adrenaline starts pumping and suddenly, it’s a ton of fun!

There was a lot more covered, but you need to take the course to find out more!  Work along with me and share your opinions in the comments below!  See you in the course!

In Summary

  • Changing a rule, changes the game (for better or worse)
  • Unpredictability creates tension and F-U-N
  • Education needs CAN be met through a game

Come back to find out what we cover in Adventures in Gamification: Week Four – Scenarios as Levellers!  There are three weeks left to this session, but remember, you can join at any time!  New participants are joining all the time.


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