Board Games, Zombies, and Minecraft: Gamification in Higher Education

Board Games, Zombies, and Minecraft: Gamification in Higher Education

Susan Keim, Zac Jarrard
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4960-5.ch009
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Games have been played throughout human history and in all cultures, exposing almost everyone to gameplay in some form. Higher education is exploring ways faculty can leverage games to enhance course development and the student learning experience. The primary pedagogical use of games is gamification, in which gaming is used to transform learning activities. This chapter will 1) provide an overview of gamification theory and practice in higher education, 2) share ideas for faculty to consider when using gamification as a teaching tool, and 3) explore how the game Minecraft was used through educational and practical applications to teach a local government course.
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In any gaming environment, McGonigal (2011) suggests four basic game elements are present. The first element is a goal players are working to achieve. The second is establishing game rules and ways a player can go about achieving goals. The third is a feedback system showing players the progress they are making towards achieving goals. Fourth, players voluntarily participate and agree on the goals, rules, and feedback system within the game. These four principles form the foundation for gamification theory which applies to digital and non-digital games.

In a literature review of game-based learning and e-learning, Doney (2019) found seven common themes that occur in practice.

  • Challenge: “the level of difficulty and ability to stretch” players (p. 3). The challenge of a game is intrigue and what captures the player’s interest. This can vary from player to player;

  • Competition: the competition is between players or game elements. Players participate in games for simple rewards such as bragging rights among friends or more complex rewards and prizes. Games can even have groups of players vying to win or players competing against game elements like traps, zombies, and monsters;

  • Control: the amount of control players have to manipulate the game environment. Some games are narrow and limit player actions. Other games give players more choices and freedom to customize the game;

  • Feedback: the feedback enables players to reflect on actions taken within a game and to learn from their mistakes. Feedback comes to players through game prompts such as a point system. This helps players measure game progress and identify areas of improvement;

  • Context: the environment of a game and realistic situations using visuals and media. The context of a game could vary depending on player activities and goals. Digital and non-digital games have different contexts based on how they are designed;

  • Rules: the rules help players know how to play the game and what achievements they are seeking. Rules set the boundaries for acceptable behavior and consistency. They establish desired outcomes and steps for players to win the game; and

  • Reflection: the power of reflection is a positive influence to encourage learning. Players review their game performance—what went well, what did not go well, and how to improve in the next game. The goal of reflection is continuous improvement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dominoes: Tile-based board game with rectangular pieces.

Mumbai Environmental Social Network: A think-tank within Mumbai which advocates for advancing urban issues.

UN-Habitat: A United Nations agency whose mission is to promote the development of socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements and adequate shelter for all.

Block by Block: A collaboration between Mojang, Microsoft, and UN-Habitat.

Games: Activity or sport with fixed rules involving skill, knowledge, or chance.

Citizen Engagement and Civic Participation: Active engagement of citizens within their communities.

Minefaire: Local Minecraft community events intended for 7-14 year olds. These events bring together faculty, kids, and Minecraft content developers.

Kahoot!: An interactive online quiz tool using mobile devices to make classes more interactive.

Student Engagement: Students actively engaged in the learning process.

Anaheim: City of Anaheim, California.

Student Motivation: Students' desire to participate in the learning process.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?: A game where participants answer questions and compete to win $1,000,000.

Mumbai: City of Mumbai, India.

Video Games: Also computer games or digital games—interactive games played on different electronic display platforms.

Chess: Two-player checkerboard strategy game.

Minecraft: A ‘sandbox’ computer game resembling a complex digital Lego. Allows players to build structures out of textured cubes in a three-dimensional generated video game world.

Minecon: An annual event where Minecraft players where Minecraft players come together from across the world.

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