Discover PSU!

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For the past several years, I've been kicking around an idea for a multi-year game that you could start playing as a prospective PSU student, continue playing during your time at PSU, and optionally continue as an alumni.

The main problem is conceptualizing a game of this scope. How do you build a game that has such a long life? We can take clues from several existing casual games out there that do have an infinite play life, like Kingdom of Loathing or Shakes and Fidget. In both examples, you have limited play time per day, dictated via a limited number of turns or adventures per day. For KoL, you can finish the game, "ascend," and play again. And again, And again. Each time you ascend you get to keep one skill you learned in that game run. This, in turn, enables you to accomplish things in later ascensions that you simply could not do earlier.

So, there are ways to conceptualize a game with a very long play life. Now, what about content? Do we have a game area for each college? How do we populate it? How do we bring in people from each college to build out that area? How do we maintain that area, change it over time to both reflect changes in the college itself and to increase replay-ability? This is a tougher challenge. Maybe badges are part of the solution.

My colleague Ken Layng and I are investigating Mozilla's Open Badges for possible use in ITS Training Services. A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest. Badges can be used to represent achievements, communicate successes, set goals, and motivate behaviors,. They can  support learning that happens in new ways and new spaces beyond the  traditional classroom. These include online courses, after-school  programs, work and life experiences. By providing a more complete  picture of learners' skills and competencies, badges can signal  achievement to a variety of communities and institutions including  potential employers, educational organizations and social groups. One opts to display their earned badges via the web.

Thumbnail image for Badge-diagram-2.2.jpg
The work we're doing on badges led me to think how they might fit into Discover PSU! Suppose we worked with colleges to develop a set of badges at both the major and overall college level. These badges would be earned via traditional coursework, so we wouldn't be asking for a retooling of any curriculum. Then, in the game, a player who had one of these badges would have access to a new area, gain a new skill, etc. The incentive to earn badges would come both from the desire to build up your curriculum badges for an online e-Portfolio-like display of abilities, and to better play the game. Better game play, in turn, could feed back into a more holistic understanding of your major, your college, and the entire PSU system. It would also be an incentive to continue playing the game beyond graduation and could lead to increased involvement in the future of PSU via a strong alumni base.

So how do we start? What if we reverse engineer this game? In most games, the game comes first, then a community springs up around it. What if we built the community FIRST, encouraged active participation in conceptualizing the game via tools such as Wikis, and then built the game when we reached a point where we all felt further conceptualization should wait until the game went live and run for some time?

What are your thoughts on all this? I really need some input on this concept.


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