Competition, Gamification and the “Danger” of Being on Top

In attempting to gamify certain aspects of education, there’s inherently an aspect of competition involved, whether it is “against yourself” or against others. This can be both an excellent motivator, whilst also being a slippery slope that, in extreme cases, could encourage learned helplessness or create divisions within a group of individuals that were previously united. In terms of gamifying aspects of education, GOOD gamification should not result in learned helplessness– because then it has truly failed to provide any benefit right?
However, it could be argued that in a competition where groups are pitted against each other the idea that “your team can never win” can develop like a cancer, simultaneously forming in groups and out groups– “the us and them” of the winning and losing teams. This is usually the time when some writer will quote the tale of David and Goliath, or an entrepreneur will talk about how they made millions out of nothing– basically, people start telling stories about when the underdog actually wins against the odds.
I started thinking about this– about WHY the underdog wins in certain times and not in others (for it the underdog always won, they wouldn’t be an underdog)– and group morale seems to be a significant component in the success of the underdog. I’m not saying that it’s ONLY group morale, sometimes people just get lucky. Often times it’s due to an innovative unconventional strategy– doing something so unexpected or unpredictable that the opposition doesn’t REALLY know what to do or how to respond.
In the article below, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the underdogs and the outsider– and uses the David and Goliath Metaphor to boot.

BUT, you can have the best specialists in a field and the most innovative strategies that still don’t succeed to that high level of achievement– wining the house, topping the leader board, hitting the jackpot.  If Ender’s Game is anything to go by, you can see that group morale and the support and encouragements of one’s team or “jeesh” can play a huge factor. Ender was certainly a great leader, not without faults, yet he knew how to build this aspect of group morale. To build a team.
Soldiers in the Army whose commanders are identified as the most effective leaders not only produce the most efficient results, but the soldiers under their command are also the happiest, the most likely to feel a true “sense of brotherhood” as well as a higher degree of perseverance when attempting to achieve goals.

So what does this have to do with competition, games and education? Well it seems almost too simple:

Good team/group morale + competition = perseverance +  achievement + positive psychological outcomes.

Fostering “good group morale” within a classroom could be a key driver in academic success– promoting students to work together, teach each other and learn from each other– while potentially mitigating the danger of some of the negative psychological pitfalls of adolescence via the creation of a group of people you can rely on. Definitely a more difficult objective to achieve with a group of adolescents rather than a group of military personnel.

On a side note, what happens to group morale when there is no challenge perceived? When you’re on top and there’s no enemy in sight?
Research indicates that group morale is at its highest/best/most effective when challenge is perceived, because a group will rally together to thwart the dangerous outcome.

Then the underdog comes in with a unbalancing strategy and claims the lead in the last 10 seconds of the game. Perhaps that is why the idea of being the underdog is not always a bad thing– technically you’re always being challenged, so your group morale is always high and your group is always (theoretically) on point.
Therein lies the danger of the top dog.

Social Media Background Checks- is everyone already screwed?

Many people in this class are graduating soon, either this year or next, so if you’re like me and today’s mention of social media background checks scared the life out of you, never fear– you aren’t already dead in the water.

After class today I started googling  social media background checks, and let me tell you, it’s pretty alarming to think about all the things we have put out into the world via the internet over just the past five years. They don’t just look at FaceBook and Twitter, they look at Tumblrs, YouTube and other things/sites you’ve joined affiliated with the email account you provide on your resume. (Trick number one– make a brand new gmail account for jobs/applications ONLY. No matter how “careful” you’ve been with the account you’ve had for the past 2-15 years, just make a new one. You can forward the emails from that shiny new account to your current one!)

So besides all the creepy sites offering to “remove” you from google searches or “erase your internet persona”, there is actually some interesting advice on how to “clean up your internet identity”. I’ve posted some links below, including the article mentioned in class that talks about Facebook predicting job performance.

Facebook and job performance

The basic message of it all is update your privacy settings. Seems simple right? The annoying thing is that sites like FaceBook alter things when they make a new platform for their site– I know that for a little while when they switched to timeline, ALL of my profile went public. Not so fun.

I love social media, so don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging everyone to be sneaky. Just internet activity conscious– it creeped me out to realize all the information I had inadvertently shared.

Oh and P.S. If you only read ONE of these articles, read the Gizmodo one about how the guy flunked his background check. It’s pretty funny and fills you in on the “need to know” stuff ( That I had no idea I actually needed to know!)


Background checking Startup looks at social media activity

Recommendation Engines and the Death of Adventure

We spoke about this today in lecture for a little while– how tailoring our interests automatically is potentially limiting us. So here’s a quick link to a blog post I read some time ago that talks about this topic. I know the author, so perhaps I’m biased, but I think he hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Learning & Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is an AWESOME DS game. It let’s you draw your way to victory in it’s fast faced and, oftentimes, multiplayer action. I want to give it a shout out to legitimatize this post… because I don’t play scribbnauts, I play DoodleInClass.,8599,1882127,00.html, that’s right, Time Magazine has stated that doodling in class helps with information retention! I think this is important, especially considering that lecturing is the least engaging learning methods. I’m currently taking a drawing class, so hopefully these doodles will get better over time, but for the time being, Enjoy!

Choosing a Video Game

I don’t know how the whole selection process has been for you guys in terms of choosing a game for the semester, but it has seriously been a huge task for me. I went back and forth and back and forth with games so many times and finally decided on one, but now that I have been reading Gee’s book, I have started to have second thoughts again. I really resonated with what Gee said when he was talking about “projected identities” in video games. I really wanted to try this out and see if I really felt how he described in the book so I bought Skyrim and started playing and had the hardest time putting the controller down. I felt very much a part of the game, as if I were actually there. I’ve played plenty of RPG’s before but I was never fully aware of this feeling or really made much of it. It is for this reason that I am starting to debate whether or not I made the right choice in my video game for the semester. I chose FIFA 12 mainly because I wanted to learn about soccer (a sport that I know incredibly little about) and also because I wanted to have a game that could invite my roommates into playing. However, I played FIFA right before Skyrim and it was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the moment I turned Skyrim on, I was transfixed on the screen along with my roommates. We sat in the living room for a good four hours straight and loved every minute of it. After I finally was able to tear myself away from the screen to go out to dinner with some friends, I started to reflect on my experience and I thought more about what Gee was saying in his book. What if school was that exciting? What if we could create an environment that would motivate students so much that they would have to be torn away from their studies to eat? I’m excited to read the rest of Gee’s thoughts on this, but I just thought I’d share a little bit with everyone about my personal experience with the text this weekend.



Here is a website that i think is a good learning resource if you are interested in programming:

If you are going to use it with friends it might work as a good game since you are getting points for completed tasks.

Getting Pumped for Class!

Yay! Professor Fishman helped me to reregister as a contributor for the blog; I was registered as a follower of the blog, which is why I could not make a new post. Oops!

I just watched the video about learning in video games that is posted as an introduction to the class on the CTools site. I wanted to share another video that I have seen that explores similar themes about learning. However, this video focuses more on in-game learning, as Professor Fishman described quickly in lecture today with the Incredibles game. This video, which my boyfriend shared with me when I told him that I was registered for this class, got me really excited, and I hope that it gets other people excited too! (Also, it is about Mega Man and Mega Man X, both of which are amazing games!)

Without further ado, the video:

Also, a funny story that my boyfriend shared with me about video games and learning: When he was younger, he was attempting to play Mario’s Time Machine, but the game required him to be able to read in order to progress. He wanted to play it badly enough that he was motivated to learn to read prior to kindergarten. His mother taught him, and Mario’s Time Machine is still one of his favorite games. What a great way for a game to motivate a child to learn! Does anyone else have funny anecdotes like this?

Cite this!

Working on a paper for class (perhaps this class)? Need some help with citation formatting? Check out this great online tool, Son of Citation Machine. This nifty site does all the major citation styles (hint: for EDUC 222, choose APA 6th), and thanks to the magic of crowd sourcing, might even already know how to cite what you have in mind. If not, just enter the requested information into the boxes, and the site will generate a proper in-text citation and entry for your end-of-paper reference section!

Son of Citation Machine (APA 6th Style):


Feel constrained by 200 words? How about 6?

Students in EDUC 222 know that the limit on weekly reading reactions is a paltry 200 words. How are you supposed to express your deep understanding of the readings in only 200 words? Here’s something to make you feel better.

Sebastian Wernicke, speaking at TEDx Zurich 2011, demonstrates the potential of boiling all TED talks down to just 6 words. Starting with over 2.3 million words across all TED talks currently on the web, Wernicke cut things back by 99.9997%! See for yourself below.

Next time you are working on a reading reaction, instead of feeling hemmed in by “only” having 200 words, think about starting with 6 words, and enjoy the extra 194!

Aviv has a website!

That boy from the nytimes video (Aviv Porath) has his own website!

He started it when he was only 9 and apparently that emmy was only one of three his father has won for soundmixing, (I think for videogames). I don’t even know how to make a website right now, but he made one starting when he was 9!

Creating New Games in Defined Spaces

I know a lot of you know the Halo series. The Halo series (and the entire universe, because as a huge Halo fan, I’ve read all the books and comics and tried to find out as much as I can about it) is one of my favorite game series, not just because of the story or the gameplay, but also because as of Halo 3 Bungie (the game’s developer) added a creativity aspect to it.

They called it Forge. And not even Bungie knew how it would redefine Halo multiplayer.

At first, people used Forge to simply create new maps for the preset gametypes built into Halo. Then something amazing happened. People came up with their own game types. I remember the first time I loaded up a race track map and thinking “This is amazing!” The game was never meant to support a game like that but the players added it themselves.

This happened to some extent with Halo 2; players created their own “zombies” gametype that Bungie actually added as a game preset in Halo 3. However, this is not nearly on the same scale as Forge which lets players not only the game settings (spawn, lives, team traits, etc.) but also the map itself (spawn, items, weapons, basically everything but terrain).

One of the biggest Forge games is Grifball, a game created by the guys over at Rooster Teeth (creators of the popular Red vs. Blue machinima) as a joke (Grifball is referenced a few times in the series) by modifying game settings and a map to be what they needed. The game took off, and Bungie made it a playlist in Halo 3 and then a built-in gametype in Halo: Reach.

Speaking of Halo: Reach, Bungie outdid themselves with Forge; Forge 2.0, as they call it, takes a lot of features the community “hacked” around (improvising ways to get items to mesh together is just one example of something the community did that ended up as a feature in Forge 2.0).

Something that I’ve been watching for a few months now is called Achievement HORSE (run by the guys at Achievement Hunter, one of the parts of Rooster Teeth) and is the main point of this post.

Achievement HORSE started as a goofy idea between 2 of the guys in the office; what if they both made a few maps with some well-defined goals (make a mine explode after driving along a treacherous track, for example) and played HORSE (like the basketball game). The result was a highly entertaining and creative video featuring two of the guys in the office (Geoff and Jack) that immediately gained a following on their site; within a week they were getting emails from people who created maps for them to use in making the competition videos (Jack and Geoff always filmed the games so they could post them online) and now they have so many submissions that there’s an enormous lag between submitting and them even looking at your map.

This game is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen done with a video game. They took a concept not even remotely built into the game or related to Halo and, with the Forge tools, created their own gametype that is taking off on the internet. The Forge tool in general is amazing just from its map-editing standpoint; I love loading up their huge Forge World map and just building something, whether it’s an actual game space or just something pointless but fun. Things like Achievement HORSE elevate Forge even more! I can guarantee that Bungie never expected people to be playing Horse in Halo (like they didn’t expect people to make art or Rube Goldberg machines), yet people DID. That’s what’s so great about Forge and the Forge community: they took a tool the developer gave them and did things nobody expected.

I love Forge and am proud to be a part of the Forge and Halo communities. It’s a great and unconventional way to express yourself in the Halo universe and game setting.

“Gamifying” Grades in Class

Unless you are totally not paying attention, you are aware that we are using a “game-based” grading system in EDUC 222. As I mentioned in the first class meeting, I was inspired to try this out by reading a blog post about a class taught by Lee Sheldon on MMORPGs in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University that uses a similar system. There have been a spate of blog posts about this kind of grading system recently, and I thought you might appreciate some “behind-the-scenes” considerations. As always, your feedback and input on our grading system is welcomed!

How to ‘Gamify’ your class Website” by Anastasia Salter in the Chronicle of Higher Education (this is basically the newspaper of higher education.

Gamifying Homework” by Jason Jones, also in the Chronicle.

And an interesting “post-mortem” on the IU class… do you agree with the students’ feedback on the grading system in that course? What would you change about the grading system in our course?


Digi-Ops experience; room for improvement.

So upon arriving at Digi Ops, it was nothing like I expected. To be honest I expected a lot more video game consoles than computers and I really didn’t expect the computers to be so isolated from each other. In my opinion, the point of playing video games, in part, is a social aspect. Gamers getting together to accomplish a goal. Whether it be defeating a boss, eliminating the opposing team or survival like in Left for Dead. I expected the computers/ consoles to allow for much more interaction but what we saw was little sections where gamers were isolated from others and the only way of communication was through a headset. Prior to going to Digi Ops, I felt like it would be a team building experience where teams could get to know each other, play different games, and of course play the assigned games so that teams could learn to work together as well as have a competitive aspect to it. While I felt that Left for Dead was a good game to play, I feel that the whole experience could have been done much better. I noticed that there were Xboxs set up and in much closer proximity to each other as well as in a much more open space. I feel like using those would have been a better alternative than the isolated stations that we ended up playing in. I talked to a couple of people in the class and they seemed to agree with my thoughts but these may not be the opinion of everyone. I thought that this would be a nice way to give feedback on the experience since we have no assignments pertaining to it and hopefully improve it for future classes.

Math Education Replaced by Video Games?

Some aspects of education — especially mathematics, which requires repetitive practice — seem like they could easily be adapted to the video game format, where players are encouraged to play over and over again until they master new skills.

A study of the effectiveness of one video game designed to teach linear algebra, called DimensionM, revealed a significant difference between a control group, who received traditional mathematical instruction, and a treatment group, who played the DimensionM game.

Owing perhaps to the limited statistical power of their study (which included about 200 kids), the researchers don’t make any attempt to quantify the difference that the game made, other than to say that the students who played it in school did better. Past studies have revealed mixed results for the use of games in the classroom, but the authors argue that this is precisely the point — any game that’s to be used in school should be evaluated in a controlled study first.

In terms of the larger implications for education, it’s worth noting that this school district, which was somewhere in the Southeast U.S., was relatively low-achieving to begin with. So arguably the study’s results are more likely to generalize to similar districts. In fact, a growing body of educators are already arguing that the world’s worst-off children are better off being educated by machines.

Educational games have come a long way since the Cave of the Word Wizard and Dungeon of the Algebra Dragon, and DimensionM typifies the changes that have taken place. Not only does it take place in a three-dimensional world, but it’s also multiplayer, tapping into kids’ natural inclinations to both compete and cooperate.

Given the level of math phobia present in American schoolchildren and the sorry state of financing for education, it’s worth asking whether or not the trend lines of declining quality in education and increasing quality of educational games have already crossed for a significant portion of American students.

“Flow” down the mountain

Friend of the class Chris Gerben (founder of the “How I Write” series at UM) sends along this extremely timely link to a Huffington post article that contains what he calls “a hippy-dippy” take on Flow, one of the motivational theories we are reading about for class. Enjoy!


So what are you going to play?

As you ponder what I’m sure will be the most important decision of your entire college career (perhaps your entire life), it might help to hear what others are considering.  So let’s start a comment thread on this post – let us know what games are “in play” for you.

  • Are you going console or PC?
  • Are you going to try something totally new, like a Kinect game on the XBox?
  • Any brave people want to wander in to the “World of Warcraft?” (be sure to leave a trail of bread crumbs)
  • Have you checked out Steam for downloadable games?
  • Are people still interested in Tiger Woods? (available in “slimeball” and “choir boy” editions)
  • Want to run amok in Grand Theft Auto? (not new, but still good)
  • What else!?!

Video Game selection

Having troubles deciding what game to play for the semester?  I’d recommend taking a look at these roundup of the best games of 2010: (the editor’s choices) (the readers’ choices)

A lot of these games are available through Steam, a quick and easy download and game management tool.  So… you don’t even have to go out to the store to buy a copy, and you can redownload it onto any computer, forever.

If you know of other good lists like this, feel free to reply and post them!


Welcome to the EDUC 222 blog!

Welcome to the blog for EDUC 222! Your professor and the teaching team will use this blog to share news and information related to videogames and learning, and we invite you to submit your own thoughts, ideas, and comments on same.