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The Re-Gamification of Role-Playing Games

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In 1996, Richard Bartle created a personality test that classifies people into four defining categories for defining the motives behind why people play games. The four categories are broken apart here, but the original names Richard Bartle used were Explorer, Killer, Socializer, and Achiever. Here these categories receive new names to suit the purposes of this discussion applied towards tabletop role-playing games.

 

The four personality archetypes functionally similar to those Richard Bartle described are Explorer, Fighter, Histrionic, and Collector. An Explorer has a desire to explore and see where they can go, especially in the limits of another person's imagination. A Fighter has a strong aggressive sense, and loves the idea of competition and surpassing another competitor, as well attraction to conflict. A Histrionic primarily enjoys socialization and interaction, and this drives this person to continue regular interactions, sometimes despite other issues in social dynamics. A Collector while slightly competitive in nature is primarily about the act of fulfillment via attainment of some kind of achievement, reward, or goal, and the recognition associated with the success, literally collecting recognition and renown, imagined or real.

 

These player archetypes can help game designers of tabletop role-playing games the same way they assist for great game design in video games. For over three decades, the development of tabletop role-playing games has evolved, adopting more efficient game mechanics that provide more flexibility and freedom, meant to compartmentalize the various components of game play. Some of these components were borne from role-playing games such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons and Dragons: d20/3.0, GURPS, MegaTraveller, Star Wars (d6), and World of Darkness. The idea of gamification is notably a movement of bringing game design and development techniques and approaches to business, culture, and eventually society. There have been many controversial books written on the subject, some dry, some not, but within role playing games there is an opportunity to apply these techniques more directly.

 

Tabletop role-playing games are part of niche industry that suffers a long history of criticism and difficulty in wide spread acceptance, especially within the United States. The idea of imagined role-playing among adults where people take on the persona of fictional characters holds a perception as antisocial. Through video games, however, tabletop role-playing games have seen a rise in acceptance. People born during the "baby boomer" generation in the US now play phone games and online games, cases in point: they learned to click the mouse by playing Solitaire on early Windows, and now people can use touch screens more easily because of Angry Birds. Usability as a matter of functional goal by design is ultimately the greatest achievement of gamification. From this standpoint, tabletop games developers need to place more emphasis in usability goals. Does regular participation in a role-playing game lead to useful skills?

 

The piles of evidence behind role playing games resulting in more intelligent, free-thinking, mathematic, versatile, people with a greater vocabulary than their counter parts who do not play games is vast. Were role playing game developers to sit down and creatively hone in on this, they might see that role playing games may be one of the most effectively tools available to educators. As a tool for teaching, a role-playing game can cover multiple subjects, including history, geography, and language arts. The progression of mathematics and vocabulary seem to inherently go hand in hand with role playing games, since they tend to use a lot of words normally not a part of the general vocabulary in a populace, and they tend to use dice to unintentionally augment logic and math. Children have such wide imaginations and are such divergent thinkers; role-playing games are perfect for those kids who find a lecture on history boring.

 

Science can become a part of the process, since the scientific method of observe, record, theorize, deduce is built into the idea of such simple concepts as Dungeoneering, where characters explore, search, keep maps, and make guesses; teaching players to use caution and treat the unknown with a degree of skepticism. Through a carefully structured game world, role-playing game developers could use fictional elements to teach about large anthropological concepts, social norms, and formal behaviors, such as etiquette.

 

If a larger shift occurs behind the design and development of tabletop role playing games to purpose them for education, potentially wider adoption may take place of a once taboo hobby. Some strong considerations for role-playing games as educational tools involve the use of convergent and divergent thinking throughout the learning process, maintaining a loosely coupled imaginary play with rules bound to the guidance of a teacher. Children, especially young children, find imaginary play a natural source of learning and through this form of play it is likely children learn a particularly large number of their social and interactive skills. If minds are open to easier learning during this process, it is perhaps it is possible to theorize that during an imaginary process, our minds are in a state where we might learn better than not. We are keeping our minds open during imaginary play, and thus the open mindedness required perhaps increases the chances that we perceive and commit to memory some of the information presented to us. From my understanding with some more recent studies on role-playing games and children with sensory perception issues, imaginary play has served as a particular powerful tool in helping these children to find ways to explore social interactions.

 

Given the particular flexibility, simplicity, and robustness behind d6 gaming, it seems logical that d6-based role playing game mechanics should lead the way in tackling this change in the reason and methods behind role playing game development. While there is always resistance to change, role-playing games offer a lot in the way overhauling education on a grander scale while making learning more fun. The re-gamification of tabletop role-playing games is due, not only to revive an industry, but also to learn new ways to teach.

 

For some interesting reading on research surrounding RPG's check out:

http://www.rpgstudies.net/

 

For more information on Gamification, head on over to their site:

http://gamification.org/wiki/Encyclopedia

 

Best Regards,

Jeremy Streeter

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Interesting article. While the concept is sound, it would be a matter of needing material appropriate for proper education AND a teacher willing to attempt the method. I can certainly see it working, if done correctly and attempted with ernest. There is a fine line between doing it well and coming across as a "crazy person teaching kids stuff they'll never use".

 

Certainly food for thought.

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Keep your gamification off my games! :P

 

When I can find a position that lets me represent myself with a character sheet, represents everyone I come into contact with at work with a character sheet, and roll die to do my job... gamification will have arrived!

 

...

 

However, if I ever find the DM at work tossing all those random encounters my way...:mad:

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