Players of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games have long known that working cooperatively and competitively within the game space has improved not only their leet gaming skillz but also real life abilities, including leadership, communication skills, creative thinking and adaptability. Lee Sheldon, assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, has taken the use of MMO design and terminology to the next level and applied it to his classroom education.
Referenced by Professor Jesse Schell in his talk at DICE, Sheldon has applied basic elements of MMOs to his classroom, including forming guilds (small groups within the classroom), quests (activities and projects – both “solo” and “guild” based), offering “Boss battles” (exams), and using XP points instead of grades. While the media has focused mostly on Sheldon’s use of a non-traditional grading system, they’re missing the bigger picture.
According to Lee Sheldon, the use of the MMO system for classroom instruction has resulted in better attendance, greater class participation and more quality coursework. By utilizing terminology that students understand, Sheldon’s ideas may help students become better prepared for the real world, having expanded their collaborative skills, adaptive thought patterns, communication abilities, and leadership.
While Lee Sheldon’s classes are specifically tailored for game design—he teaches courses in Theory and Practice of Game Design and Multiplayer Game Design—these MMO principles (and game design theory in general) could be applied to nearly any classroom situation.
It’s not so far-fetched for the workplace, either. According to IT News in Australia, companies are already adapting some of the basic tenets of good game design and applying them to the work place, even though they’re not necessarily using the terminology of “guilds,” “raids” and “questing.” Some workplace game-like offerings include clear, well-defined goals and gradual, incremental rewards, such as points for showing up on time…
Simple psychology explains the benefits of using gameplay principles in all aspects of our lives. Offer rewards, get better results; you don’t have to be Lee Sheldon to understand that.
Afterword: Later this year, Lee Sheldon will be reporting more of his findings and detailing this project in his book “Practical Game Design: A Toolkit for Educators, Researchers and Corporations.”