This week I had a conversation with Karen Markley from the University of Michigan about her information literacy game, Defense of Hidgeon. Karen had just finished getting feedback from a student focus group and was already preparing for the next iteration of the game. As theshiftedlibrarian’s post stated, Karen is looking for additional partners for the next step in the game. I hope that anyone interested will Karen. Karen has a good base of a game to begin the project with and her group has learned a lot through the development and implementation of the first game. Below are some of the notes from my conversation:
A Soc110 class of 75 students played the game from the beginning of November until Thanksgiving break. At the end of November, Karen held a discussion group with some of the students involved in playing the game. What follows are some of the notes from a conversation I had with Karen during the first week of December.
The group of 75 students consisted of mainly freshmen. But there were a larger number of sophomores and juniors in the introductory class than initially expected. This shift in the numbers of older, and potentially more experienced students, may reflect some of the negative feedback on the game.
The students played in groups of four to answer the questions. The teams of four played on a one game board with the ideal of working together to answer each of the research questions. Even working in groups was not enough to improve the student’s game experience. According to Karen, the students “hated” the topic of the Black Death. They stated, “I did this in High School” and wanted “something relevant” for a topic. The students felt the topic was not connected to the content in their class, and felt more like extra work than an enjoyable way to research.
Students also discussed how some of the additional challenges in the game frustrated them. The players had to go to the library and ask a reference question in order to get their character out of prison. While the idea of getting students into the physical building and interacting with the librarians was good in theory, the students felt the challenge distracted them from the game. They expressed concern that any additional challenges would not remove them from the game.
A lot of the student feedback sounded realistic when Karen described it. The students were looking for a “video game” type of experience, but the additional “big game” type of tasks was different than their expectation of a traditional video game. Some of the student's expressed lack of interest in completing the game may be their expressed disconnect with class content. I believe that some of the less than positive reviews also stems from a less than compelling game experience. The linear experience of the game and the limited freedom to explore or choose a direction might have contributed to limited engagement with the game.
While the feedback from the students felt negative, Karen was not deterred. She is positive and excited about the next phase in the process. She has already began discussions with the Comprehensive Studies Program at the University. It is a class of about 150 incoming Freshmen (with coverage in the Humanities and Sciences). The class has one research writing assignment. Karen is discussing applying the game with this class and tying it into their research assignment. The next iteration will seek to provide more detail and specifically take students through a variety of sources. Her hope is to have a grade attached to the game, in order to provide additional incentive to finishing the game.
The future of the game will end up taking a different form than it's current context in the Middle Ages. After watching the gameplay and having a chance to play it, the foundation of the game is good and some game design changes could create a more engaging experience for students. Opening up the game space and creating more than one path through the "board" are game design decisions that may help engage students, but will also result in more complicated design, scripting, and planning in order to make it work.
While there is a lot of work ahead for Karen, her team, and any new partners in the project. I'm looking forward see how the game develops.