Nick Yee, a game analytics expert at nickyee.com, has suggested that one important engagement component for Role Playing Games (RPGs) is “Immersion” and a sub-component in that is “Role-Playing”.
(All of his work is fascinating by the way…)
I was thinking of Yee’s work when I started thinking of creating Avatar types in the classroom. I began this process last year with my Narrative Based Avatar Types. Now that I am changing my narrative to a “Superhero” based theme I am also rebuilding my student Avatar Choices. My goal is to allow students to tailor their classroom experiences to their own perceived strengths and weaknesses while also allowing them to develop a personal story for their avatar character. This involves making a number of choices that will influence their experience and hopefully provide some unique structures.
The first choice that students will make will be how their Super Powers work. Building off of last year’s Hearts Concept students will have alternative (non-grade based) incentives for completing assignments. In 2017-18 students were given 3 “Hearts” and if assignments were not turned in on time then a heart was taken away. Think of this like Link taking a hit in Legends of Zelda. There were ways to regain a heart or to extend the due dates but the overall concept was based on Loss Aversion. The students had the heart and would work to keep the heart. This worked surprisingly well. Part of this was because a students ‘special skill’ was tied to having hearts. If the student had no hearts that student could not use their special skill, which might be a cheat sheet or a phone-a-friend like ability, on the test.
This year students will have a choice to either start with the three hearts for the semester OR they can start with “Zero Charge” and work to build up the “Superpower” by completing assignments. The choice will determine which meta-guild they will be part of as well. “Hunters” (the anti-heroes in my narrative) will work on the Hearts system. They will receive 3 “Hunter’s Hearts” cards at the beginning of the semester and lose 1 card for each late assignment. The “Sentinel’s” (the traditional goody-two shoes heroes) will work on the new “Charge” system. During a unit they will earn a charge sticker each time they complete an assignment. The sticker will go on the back of their “Sentinel’s Charge” card (I know there is a typo).
Once they have selected their role they will physically move to be part of that meta-guild and can then form smaller groups from within that breakdown. The semester 1 story revolves around content unit-based “Clashes” or fights between these two groups (more on this later).
Regardless of the Hunter’s or Sentinel’s status each student will be able to then take on one of 8 different super powers. Each power type has a different common assessment (test) taking ability, Battle mechanic skills, and unique items that can be won or purchased (also more on this later). The 8 Super Powers are listed below. Click on the power to see the specifics for each.