One definition of gamification is the use of features usually found in games in areas of life which are usually game free. Only time will tell if this buzzword becomes the next big thing as some people are predicting, but meanwhile, sites such as Chore Wars can help you make a game of some of the most uninteresting but necessary tasks of life.
Although Chore Wars has been designed to turn housework into an adventure game, the site is flexible enough to let you customise adventures, which means it can be converted for use in the classroom.
Let’s look at this through an example.
I have a class of teenagers studying for the Cambridge First Certificate in English exam and in order to prepare yourself for this exam, you have to do a lot of practice tests. The problem is that doing these tests frequently becomes routine and repetitive, which is where Chore Wars can help.
I started by setting up an account on the site and creating a number of adventures. You can then create a number of adventures from scratch, which is what I did. I
I made each part of the exam an adventure that when claimed, earns the player XP (experience points) , gold coins and the possibility of finding treasure. The learners (players) can see the scores of the others too, which adds an element of competition to doing practice tests. I also made the rewards on the more difficult parts of the exam higher to motivate the learners into doing them.
Introducing Chore Wars to Students
The idea is to encourage the students to do more exam practice tests by making it fun. After I’d set up the adventures, I introduced the learners to the concept in the classroom and then we went to the computer room.
There, they created their characters, choosing what they looked like and giving themselves a name.
Joining the Party
They then joined my party of adventurers. The best way to do this is to give them the link to join on a simple webpage. I used http://pen.io for this, which lets you create a webpage instantly, without any need to log in. You can see the page I set up here: http://chorewars.pen.io/.
Once they’d joined the party, I asked them to start doing some practice tests on a site called Flo-Jo, and as they finished, they claimed the adventure on Chore Wars.
Another reason why I chose to use Chore Wars was because I have a number of students who play online adventure games, and so the concept of XP, collecting gold coins, etc was familiar to them and they needed no introduction to the idea of turning the FCE exam into an adventure. It went down well with them and they happily ploughed through a number of practice tests and started to claim the adventures.
There are other students in the class, however, who do not play these games, and it was more difficult for them to see the point of the game. They seemed a little bit bemused by the concept, but I hope and trust this will change in time, as they become more familiar with it.
Managing the Adventure
I am the Dungeon Master (the game controller) of the FCE Ninjas Chore Wars adventure, which means I have control over what adventures to set, etc. I can change the number of XP, gold coins and possibility of treasure of each adventure. I’d do this to encourage the students to do part of the exam they are reluctant to do.
It’s early days, but I have already seen a potential problem that I have to deal with that could spoil the game if I am not careful: cheating
Chore Wars is based on a trust system. Players claim an adventure and this relies on their honesty. However, I could see that some of the students were very interested in knowing how the game worked, and have just spotted that one in particular wanted to see how it was possible to increase his level and XP.
Look at the screenshot below and you’ll see that this student (abaairenjy in the game) logged in and continued playing after class. I know that by looking at the times he claimed the adventures. We were in the computer room for 20 minutes, from 6.00-6.20pm and he did two practice tests while we were there. But, he also logged into Chore Wars at home, at 10pm and played the game, increasing his XP and level from level 1 to level 3. I know that it’s impossible he did 9 practice tests in this time (10 minutes!) and so will have to call him on it next class.
The good news about this activity is that he’s interested enough to do it at home to see how it works, but this will destroy the game if his cheating is allowed to continue. This is what I have decided to do now:
- I will draw the class’s attention to the cheating next time we meet. I’ll do this and ask them to decide how to deal with it. We’ll do this through negotiation and it’ll make for an interesting class discussion on honesty and what everyone thinks about cheating and of obeying the rules of games.
- I have left a comment for Alejandro, so he knows I am onto him (see screenshot below)
- I am going to suggest that all the class does what Alejandro has claimed, in the same order. That way, they too can claim them too, and they will get similar XP, treasure, and advance in levels. If they don’t like the choice of exercises, they have Alejandro to blame!
I hope this strategy will work. There are other things you can do, as Dungeon Master, to allow you to manage your adventures, which are particularly interesting if you want to manage the adventures in the classroom.
You have various options with characters, giving players permissions to create their own adventures, etc. I have changed the role of the players’ characters to NPC (non playing character) which means that I can claim adventures on their behalf (see screenshot below). This means that the learners won’t have to log in to be able to claim XP, etc. When we do a practice test in the classroom, I can quickly run through the character list and claim points for everyone there and then. I am also planning to claim adventures only for those students who actually pass a particular practice test.
How successful Chore Wars is with my class remains to be seen, but I think the potential is there to increase the interest my students have in FCE practice tests, turning the completion of them into a game, and hopefully motivating them to do more homework (not just the tests I assign them). Whatever happens now, it’s already proving to be an interesting adventure for the teacher!