Friday, April 16, 2010

Experience Points

I found this interesting video at the TED site even though it wasn’t a TED lecture. It’s about online gaming, which I mostly don’t do. I sometimes play the Facebook word games but I don’t play Mafia Wars or that Farm game (although I have FB friends who play and despite my best efforts to block updates it seems a few always sneak through). I’ve played Guitar Hero and Rock Band on the Wii but I’m really bad and generally get booed off the stage. I’ve recently started playing Scrabble over an iphone app and that’s fun. But that’s about it. So it’s not like I’m an expert at games.

Nevertheless, despite my lack of gaming knowledge, I found this presentation interesting. It’s about how games used to always be fantasy worlds but now they are creeping into real life. For instance, to play Guitar Hero you need more than a screen and a mouse, you get an actual prop that looks like a Guitar that you have to manipulate similar to a guitar. The thesis of this talk is that the logic of games and the competitiveness of accumulating points will become more and more part of daily life. In fact, one of his examples is about school. What are grades, he asks, but points similar to what you get in a game.

Lee Sheldon at Indiana University has in fact abandoned grades. Students in his class, instead, earn Experience Points.

Lee Sheldon is an accomplished screenwriter and game writer, having worked on TV shows like ST:TNG and Charlie’s Angels as well as the Agatha Christie series of games from The Adventure Company. He now teaches game design courses for Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications. Instead of assigning his students a grade at the end of the course, he instead starts every student at 0 xp and they earn points through completing quests like solo projects and quizzes in addition to grouping up for guild projects and pick up groups. How many points they have at the end of the course determines their actual “grade.”

Maybe it wouldn’t work in every class but I think it is an interesting experiment.