Game On

The Mac Lab's logo.

[Edit]: As of September 9th, 2017, I am no longer working on Game On. I’ve learned quite a lot while working on the it, but the time had come to move on. I have left the plugin in the hands of it’s new maintainer(s). I am hopeful that they will gain as much from it as I did.

Game On is a gameful education WordPress plugin. It provides a suite of tools for teachers to take advantage of. Game On is the brain child of Mike Skocko, a New Media Arts Teacher and Adobe Education Leader at the Valhalla High Mac Lab. The plugin was originally developed for internal use in the Mac Lab. However, in 2012 the plugin was released for other teachers to use. In 2015, the user base reached 80+ educators. Over the 2+ years that i’ve been working on it, Game On has come a long way and still has much further to go. Regardless, Game On and the Mac Lab still have the same mission, to innovate education by breaking the box.

The Mac Lab is, and will always be, a work in progress.

There is no such thing as a perfect learning environment.

All we can do is strive to offer more flexible and more varied opportunities for our students to learn and grow and dream.

Mike Skocko

Game On is currently developed by alumni such as myself and a few others. We all started when we were in high school, so we are hoping to get some new coders on the team soon. Our end goal is the student experience, so we take feedback and requests from both teachers and students. We have open discussions with teachers over on our Adobe Education Exchange group page. Some of our best features have come from student and teacher discussions!

Customization

A screenshot of the Game On options page.
The Game On options page. Home to all of the major site-wide options.

We consider offering options and customizations to teachers extremely important. That’s why we make so many of our special terms and features customizable.

Naming Conventions

The naming convention options allow teachers to specify the names of tasks (quests), stores and store items, currencies, currency prefixes and suffixes, professions, and more.

Loot Presets

The loot preset options allow teachers to specify presets for rewards given to students when they complete tasks. There’s more detail on quests below, but the ranges correspond to the tiers of completion in each task.

Admin Bar

The admin bar contains the “Add Bar”—as we call it—which was originally intended for developer use only, but we determined that it was a nice tool for teachers as well. The admin bar options allow teachers to specify what fields are displayed in the add bar. Any fields turned on in the add bar allow users to modify their currency totals. There is also an option that allows teachers to restrict the add bar for their use only.

In addition, there are options in the section for hiding or showing the admin bar for logged out users. By default WordPress does not display the admin bar. This forces the user to navigate to the wp-admin/ path on the site in order to login. By default WordPress also redirects the user to the user dashboard. The redirection options allows teachers to specify that non-admin users be directed to the front-page instead. This is simply a quality of life feature that spares students the extra step of navigating from the dashboard to the front-page.

Levels

The level options allow teachers to specify the number of ranks that are accessible by students. Each rank has a name, an experience threshold, and a badge attached to it. The name is self-explanatory. The experience threshold determines what quantity of experience (a major currency awarded by progressing in a task) a student must have before they can reach the specified level. Badges are simply media files that are awarded to students when they reach the level.

Seating Chart

The seating chart options allow teachers to specify a list of preset periods and computers. The periods and computers can then be assigned to students via Game On’s Clipboard feature.

Professions

The profession settings allow teachers to specify an additional system for grouping students. Professions can be purchased via the site store, and can be used to limit the visibility of certain tasks to a group of students.

Additional Settings

The additional settings section contains miscellaneous options for:

  • video size defaults (used by the [go_display_video] shortcode)
  • store receipts (an accountability feature that emails the teacher when a store item gets purchased)
    • there is also an option for hiding student names in the emails, for security
  • options for turning honor and penalties on or off individually (currencies that give students buffs and debuffs to other rewards, respectively)
  • data reset options that allow teachers to clear out currencies site-wide (this is an extremely valuable feature for the beginning of a new semester)

Quests

An example of the first stage of a Quest, the "Accept" and "Abandon" options, and the potential awards.
What a student would see just after finding a quest.

The questing system is integral to the asynchronous experience of Game On. Teachers create quests and students are able to complete them whenever they wish. Important quests can be incentivized by increasing the rewards for completing the quests within a specific timeframe. Quest access can be limited by time, currency, level, per-class groupings, and per-student groupings. Quests replace “assignments” and allow students to take control of their learning journey. Teachers provide the challenges, but it is ultimately up to the students to complete them.

An example of a Quest in progress. The "Master" and "Undo" options are available.
After completing the quest.

Questing chains were developed to provide teachers with a way to lead students on a linear path of progression. The only issue was, use of the quest chains limited the asynchronous aspect of the students’ learning, which is the primary goal of Game On. We introduced quest pods to deal with this.

Quest pods allow teachers to create groupings of individual quests and/or quest chains that students are able to complete in any order. Teachers are then able to choose how many quests the students must complete per pod in order to progress to the next. This merges the linear aspects of the quest chains and the dynamic aspect of the base questing feature. Teachers are able to set up goals for students to reach, and students have full reign over how they go about reaching that goal.

Economy

An example of a store item, with color coded cost and reward fields.
A simple store item.

Game On has a store feature which gives students a place to spend their hard-earned currencies on teacher-made items. Store items can be used to reward and encourage students, or provide guidance for those that have lost their way. Some teachers use the store to provide students with various goals to reach. Other features, such as the badge and profession systems, can be mixed with the store items. For example, by making a profession unlockable via a store item, students can buy their way into different quest lines. The possibilities are numerous!