According to Novak, there are three main elements of gaming; elements that should also be applied to 21st Century course design:

1. Fun: Based on Nicole Lazzaro’s research in gaming, there are four specific kinds of ‘fun’ in gaming, or the Player Experience (PX), and this is how the player creates emotion. There’s Hard Fun (opportunity for challenge, mastery, and feelings of accomplishment due to goals, constraints and strategy); Easy Fun (inspires exploration and role play through imagination); People Fun (building social bonds and team work); and Serious Fun (purposeful play that changes how players think, feel, behave, or make a difference in the real world). See the Fun chart here.

2. Flow: Otherwise known as the psychology of Optimal Experience, which Novak describes as “being in the zone, or knowing that you’re doing well and will continue to do well; it’s almost losing yourself in the experience.”

3. Fiero: Linked to Hard Fun, Fiero is a gaming psychology term used to describe the feeling of pleasure a gamer receives after a job well-done.

Novak related how Fun, Flow & Fiero can be incorporated into course design.

“A good course always has elements of all three,” she said. “With fun, it’s important to try and strike a balance for today’s students between Hard Fun, People Fun and Serious Fun. Flow is also important because students need to be able to feel like the coursework can be accomplished and eventually mastered. Fiero should try to be incorporated as much as possible by clearly defining course-objectives and making accomplishments visibly tangible to students.”

Of course, Novak notes that though these elements are great on paper, it’s only after playing games that incorporate different types of fun that a deep understanding will occur.

Easy Fun games include games like FrontierVille on Facebook or Sims; Hard Fun is usually any single-player game not set on the ‘easy’ mode; People Fun is a multiplayer game like World of Warcraft or Second Life; and Serious Fun can be anything from online math and science games and brain trainers to city engineering games, she noted.

(Next page: Once inside the game…)

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