Game Mechanics and Learning Theories

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I recently came across a nice summary of how game mechanics tie to learning theories at Play With Learning. While I agreed with most of what I read there, I felt the need to modify it with some additions and tweaks of my own. So what you'll see below is mostly the work of Carlton Reeve, with some additions and changes made by yours truly.

I like this because it gives me another way to look at the use of game mechanics, and also illustrate that game mechanics are not JUST behavioristic in nature.


Mechanic

Definition

Beh

Cog

Const

Exp

Connect

Achievements

Achievements are a virtual or physical representation of having accomplished something.

X X X X X

Action Points

Action points limit or control which actions a player performs each turn.

  X   X  

Appointments

Appointment dynamic requires the player to perform some action at a predetermined time or place.

X        

Auction or Bidding

An auction or bidding system encourages players to make competitive bids in order to win some prize.

  X   X  

Behavioral Momentum

Behavioral momentum is the tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.

X        

Blissful Productivity

Working hard in a game is more fun than relaxing.

X X X X X

Bonuses/Modifiers

Bonuses are an "extra" reward after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.

X     X  

Cards/Tokens

Cards can act as a randomizer to affect game conditions or as tokens to track game states.

      X  

Cascading Information Theory

The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.

  X X X  

Catch-up

Catch up is a device that makes success more difficult the closer a player gets to it.

  X      

Challenge

Challenges have a time limit or competition.

X X X    

Community Collaboration

The game dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge.

    X   X

Combos

Combos are used often in games to reward skill through doing a combination of things at nearly the same time.

  X X X  

Countdown

Players are only given a certain amount of time to do something.

X        

Discovery

Also called Exploration, players love to discover something, to be surprised.

  X   X  

Epic Meaning

Belief that efforts in the game are tied to a larger, important purpose.

  X     X

Free Lunch

Getting something for free based on the efforts of others.

  X X X X

Goals

Goals are conditions of victory or success.

X        

Infinite Gameplay

Games with no defined end, but perhaps just a continuing positive state.

      X X

Levels

Levels are a system, or "ramp," by which players are rewarded an increasing value for an accumulation of points. Levels usually correspond to individual power in the game.

X X X X  

Loss Avoidance/Aversion

Players have to avoid losing tokens, points or position.

X        

Lottery

Randomizers that determine the outcome of an interaction in a game. This creates a high level of anticipation.

  X      

Ownership

The feeling that something virtual is valued and belongs to the player.

  X      

Penalties

The negative consequence of some behavior or action.

X        

Points

A running numerical value given as a reward for actions and accomplishments.

X       X

Progression

A dynamic in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks.

  X X    

Puzzles

The player who successfully guesses or deduces the answer to a puzzle wins the game. Most puzzles involved logic and deductive reasoning.

  X      

Quests

Quests are a journey of obstacles a player must overcome.

  X   X  

Races

The goal of achieving a certain position first.

X        

Randomization

Randomizers that determine the outcome of an interaction in a game. May include cards, tokens, lotteries, and dice rolling.

  X      

Resource Management

The management of game resources including tokens, money, and points.

  X X X  

Reward (or chain) Schedules

Timeframe and delivery mechanisms through which rewards (points, prizes, level ups) are delivered.

X        

Risk and Reward

Risk and reward offers players extra benefits for optional actions. Usually there is a penalty for failure.

  X   X  

Role-playing

Role-playing determines the effectiveness of in game actions depending on how authentically the player acts out the role of a fictional character.

    X X X

Status

The rank or level of a player. Players are motivated by attempts to reach a higher level or status.

        X

Structure Building

The goal of acquiring and assembling a set of game resources into a predefined structure or one that is better than that of the other players.

  X X    

Territory Control

The goal of controlling the most area on playing surface.

    X X  

Turns

Turns allow players to act or respond in sequence.

X   X    

Urgent Optimization

The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that you have a reasonable hope of success.

  X   X  

Virality

A game element that requires multiple people to play (or that can be played better with multiple people).

        X


Behaviorism

Learning is an observable change in behavior. Behaviors are modified by rewards and punishment (the carrot and the stick).

Cognitivism

Learning occurs within the mind (the black box) and cannot be directly observed. Mental processes such as thinking, memory, knowing, and problem-solving must be explored. Knowledge can be seen as schema or symbolic mental constructions. Learning is defined as change in a learner's schemata.

Constructivism

The learner is an active information and knowledge constructor and reflective thinker, creating their own subjective representations of objective reality. New information is linked to prior knowledge, thus all mental representations are subjective.

Experiential

Learning via a cycle of experiences, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation in new situations. Learners have to do something, think about it, pull out its key points and apply them to work or life.

Connectivism

Learning occurs within a group of people via their interactions with each other and various sources of information, not just within the individual. Learning can be mapped to a network of nodes and connections between those nodes. Nodes may be people, information, feelings, media, etc.

Sources


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