I was recently on a tweet-chat in which we shared ideas about rewards in our course games, specifically framed within the context of “Powering Up.”  This, we decided, is defined as a temporary, in-game boost to your abilities.  This is distinct from an in-game item, which the character can carry around semi-permanently, that also alters/enhances their abilities.  Power-ups may be known to players, but may also be surprises (at least the first time), which adds appeal for Player, Achiever, and Free Spirit roles all at once (from Anderzej’s User Types 2.0).  In some games you can save power-ups for later use (think potions from Legend of Zelda, for example) and in others they are time or place constrained (power balls in Pacman).

While I was on this chat, I was attending ASB Unplugged.  In several sessions, we had more discussions about this very topic.  Here are my collected thoughts about possible rewards to offer during a course-game.  Not all of these will work in every classroom, of course, but hopefully it will provide a good resource for brainstorming good rewards you can offer in your game.  Thanks to all the great folks at ASB Unplugged, #levelUpEd, and the many blogs from which I’ve collected these gems.

  • 1UP cards: can be earned in various ways and turned in to get another chance at a question or assignment
  • Cross-out: used on a test to remove some (or all) incorrect answers
  • Open book for X minutes on next exam
  • Choose your own teammate on the next group exercise
  • X minutes of free time during class
  • Use the same evidence as a classmate during one exercise
  • Ask the class (for use when at the front or otherwise singled out for performance)
  • Extended time for an exam/assignment/etc
  • Earn double XP (experience points), KP (knowledge points), etc
  • Unlock special skills
  • When doing certain challenges, allow access to restricted or better resources, references, or supplies
  • Use ipod or music device during work time
  • Add a song to to the class playlist
  • Control the class playlist for a period
  • Write a note-card for yourself for use on a test later
  • Get a hint on a Boss level
  • See questions for exam or other future work in advance
  • All questions answered by a player or a group w/in a specific time (could even be during a test) will earn XP
  • Players get an extra clue or two during a hunt/exercise/etc
  • Earning badges: students must earn one leader badge and 3 other badges in any quarter/semester in order to get an A (doesn’t earn them an A, but without those badges the highest they can earn is a B)

Rewards may also allow a player to benefit an entire class or their group, such as crossing out one question on the test for the entire class, or giving your entire group extra time for an assignment, etc.  One variation of the group reward would be a power-up that allows a player to turn an individual reward into a group/class reward.  Michael Matera mentioned that in his game the in-game items are usable by individual players, while power-ups (which he provides as Badges) are earned by individuals but help the whole class win the overall game.  If you have any additional ideas to add to the bank, I’d love to hear about them; add them to the comments.

Dan Slaughter, on his blog Have a Go, has written up his experience building a set of badges.  While it’s not directly applicable, since the badges are for XP rather than Power Ups, his descriptions of each are definitely good examples of flavoring them with his game story.

Some of my favorite quotes during the tweet-chat:

  • “…School could be the biggest power up of them all.”  – Michael Matera
  • “Sometimes that student that comes ‘late to the game’ needs that P-up to feel like she can succeed.” – Kamie Fulz
  • “Since using “power ups” Ss see more ways to achieve & discover their strengths. Each power up given is feedback to the class.” – Michael Matera
  • “…if the goal is to make learning [engaging], P-ups are hugely equitable because it’s 1 more way to reach the reluctant learner.” – Josh Gauthier
  • “Useful power-ups require a clear lesson objective. Usefulness can be temporary, but is directly applicable.” – Michael Roush

Have you used Power Ups in your class?  What are your thoughts about them?