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Games and Game Theory

In her book, Reality is Broken (2011), Jane McGonigal speaks to the power of Games and Game Theory to enable us to build more ”immersive realities” that allow us to ”tackle real dilemmas and improve real lives” (p. 13). Games can take many forms (ranging from tic-tac-toe to immersive multiplayer online environments). However, it is the features of a game that cause people to keep coming back for more. Jane McGonigal and Michelle Miller (2014) describe how these features of a game dovetail with good teaching and learning practices:

  1. Games have focused goals that give players a sense of purpose.
  2. Games have clear performance standards and rules but this pushes players to think strategically and creatively because if the easy route is disallowed, they have to come up with something more innovative.
  3. Players get lots of rapid feedback. The feedback is formative, not summative. That is, you have the chance to fail, try again, fail better, try again…
  4. Participation is voluntary. Learners have a choice and this makes learning fun! In this LAMP session, Dr. Michele Larson of the Life Sciences Program shares about Incorporating Student Choice into Course Design

One way to integrate games into your class is to simply embed games that allow students to practice concepts and skills. Another strategy is to gamify your class. The latter can actually be quite enjoyable and just involves converting from the usual 'game of school' to mastery-based tasks on which students can ‘level up’. In her presentation, "Gamification for Student Interaction", UW's very own Dr. Christine Boggs speaks about how she has gamified her classes.


References and Resources

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World. New York, NY. Penguin.

Miller, M. D. (2014). Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press.

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