I’ld like to look at games and how they engage kids by applying the 7 ways games reward that Tom Chatfield talked about in his TED talk – a condensed list can also be found on his blog.

To do that I will look at a game I found on arcademicsskillbuilders after watching a PBS special, featuring, among others, a school called Quest2Learn that uses this type of game to teach kids in school.

The 7 ways games reward:

1. Using an experience system. (for example: give students an avatar or a profile that levels up steadily based on things like attendance and performance.) – so in other words, show me my track record.

2. Multiple long and short-term aims.

3. You reward for effort.

4. Rapid, clear, frequent feedback.

5. Uncertainty. (but what really lights up the brain is the unexpected reward: the one that couldn’t be predicted) – so uncertainty here relates directly to the reward!

6. Windows of enhanced attention.

7. Other people.

The chosen game called wordinvasion gets the student to shoot down wordtypes that are given at the bottom of the screen. As words fall from the sky you may only shoot down those of the given type.

Here you can see my track record after playing a couple of times.

Looking at the 7 rules of engagement we can see that:
1. I can see my track record so that I am aware of how well I am progressing (or not)
2. My short term aim is to do well on a short episode of the game at a certain level of my own choice. But I am not sure this is what Tom Chatfield meant. I think it is more about setting very concrete goals such as make sure to get 10 of these right in 2 seconds. The aim should be more specific, I would think.
3. My reward is very indirect and so this part is probably not fulfilled. The reward shows me if I improve but there is nothing concrete like a star or a door that opens to the next level.
4. Rapid, clear, frequent feedback – definitely scored here because I know immediately, when I have done something wrong and get to see my score right after a short game as well as my progress.
5. Nothing uncertain about any award since I am not getting an award and the next level is of my own choosing and not catered towards my skill level automatically, or to challenge me. Nothing surprising.
6. The tool has no awareness of my attention span.
7. High scores coming soon is an indicator that at some point I can compare myself to other people’s scores. What is not given, is any collaborative effort with others online. I could sit together in front of the computer with a group of kids, but that is probably not what Tom Chatfield meant with this point either. So – half a point on high-scores for this one.

Overall – that makes: + = yes – = no / = almost
1+ 2- 3- 4+ 5- 6- 7/
making 2.5 out of 7 on this game

So, I will need to look out for better things… perhaps timezattack!!!

Notice, I am not evaluating the learning content here – which I think is great and I highly recommend this website and their games. I am just trying to understand how to look at educational games using the 7 rules of engagement. And in terms of those, we can do much better to keep the kids engaged. Tell me if I’m wrong!

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