What is it about games that makes them so attractive?
Ingress Update: I initially commented on Ingress in an earlier post where I discussed Games and socially inclusive classrooms. Now, more than midway through a course of study in games based learning I am a tad behind in my readings and blogging. In fact, to be honest, this blog has been left in a ‘draft’ form for a number of weeks. Perhaps I have been playing Ingress too often, in addition to exploring MUVEs such as Second Life? However, I am rationalising that this is not too bad a scenario as I have been experiencing about the benefits of prolonged immersion in game environments.
So, why do I personally and professionally find Ingress intriguing? Here are a few reasons:
Narrative: The narrative that surrounds this game is simple and yet intriguing. The fantasy world of Ingress is framed around the idea that “The world around you is not what it seems.” Each time a player logs onto the game, their personal scanner reveals the story and a virtual world by announcing with a digital sounding voice “Downloading latest intel package”. This short briefing sets the scene for wondering the streets late at night hacking enemy portals. Yes, I do this…although living in inner city Melbourne I can also do this covertly from the relative safety of a CBD tram 🙂 If I do not engage in the game for a while the scanner announces “Welcome back, it’s been ten hours since your last login, I’ve been worried about you.” Oops, nothing like a gentle slap on the wrist from the game designer.
Graphics/Audio (sensory feedback): My mobile is turned into a high tech digital scanner via a UI that is quite intuitive to use. The graphics are crisp and because the game is GPS dependent you are required to continuously engage with the screen – take care! A virtual world is overlaid upon a map of your location and portals appear that beckon for your attention. The background sound effects of a science fiction genre work to keep you in the game. I usually put headsets on as I play the game rather secretively in the alleyways and streets of my neighbourhood. By the way, this game is classed as an augmented reality massively multiplayer online role playing GPS dependent game. Not that that sounds all that fun. But it is. 🙂
Rewards: Each time a portal is hacked you are rewarded with digital devices (Resonators, Shields, Xmp Bursters and Link Amps just to name a few) that help you play the game. The more you play the more powerful these tools that you collect. Part of the intrigue is also learning how to effectively deploy these mysterious devices. In fact you need to work out for yourself what each tool is for. Talk about self directed learning! Under the banner of rewards Digital Badges are also earned. For me this is the biggest reward of the game. For example I have gained badges for being an”
Explorer – earned for visiting and hacking unique portals
Pioneer – given for capturing unique portals
Recharger – for recharging portals with exotic matter
Trekker – walking a long distance
Connector – Linking portals
Guardian – controlling portals for consecutive days
Sojourner – Hacking a portal in consecutive 24 hour periods.
Woohoo! These badges are earned through persistent play and because they are hard to get they are very rewarding.
Punishment: If I do not play regularly or deploy my resonators correctly, I lose control of the portals that I have spent considerable time and resources on capturing. I also know to keep a good eye on my XM reserves as inefficient play leaves my scanner without power i.e a moment of being unable to play the game. Ouch, another slap 🙁
Social: I am only just at the point where I am discovering how collaborative this game is. The early levels of the game (Leveling up is rewarding too) keep you focussed on developing basic skills of play. Then the game introduces you to a wider community of players, or they introduce themselves. All of a sudden I was not playing alone as I started receiving instructions of what not to do. Keep playing and you will see!
So, I now know that I need to collect XM (exotic matter) while hacking, capturing, recharging and controlling portals wherever I can. And then the game becomes more complicated and a collaborative approach needs to be developed. Missions also become available.
This is fun stuff.
Importantly, Ingress has allowed me to connect deeply with a few key ideas as mentioned by Quick & Atkinson (2014) when discussing gameplay enjoyment:
* a belief among game scholars that enjoyment is related to learning outcomes
* players will keep learning through a game if they enjoy it
* the greatest threat to the effectiveness of serious game design is if players do not enjoy the game
* a strong relationship exists between the experience of enjoyment in gameplay and perceived learning
The conclusion that Quick and Atkinson (2014) make is seemingly simple and yet worth reflecting upon deeply, especially if we are to deploy games in our classrooms. They write “These works provide early evidence that enjoyment is not just critical for having a positive experience, but it may be essential for games that aim to support learning.” (page 52).
On a side note, these ideas and writings also let us know that game design is informed by critical studies in games (Ludology).
As educators we are therefore called upon to think about not just the players of these games (our students and the context that they are learning in) but also the game design – so that we may develop a good understanding of our students gameplay experience. Professionally, I can think of a few key ‘games’ that are deployed in secondary classrooms that are dead set boring and yet tolerated, whilst other games that are fun and perhaps better designed for learning may be seen as a waste of time – by some.
My suggestion here. Get out and play some games whilst thinking about what makes the experience fun or otherwise – and what you learn in the process.
Quick J.M.& Atkinson, R. K. (2014) Modeling gameplay enjoyment, goal orientations, and individual characteristics. International Journal of Game-Based learning, 4(2), 51-77