How Emotion and The Hero's Journey Connects, Engages and Motivates Players
As the phenomenon of game-based learning continues to find its place in the educational experience, the question is this: what makes for an engaging, rewarding game-based experience. Well, the answer is not to be found in whizzbang technology but in fact in a time-honored construction: The hero's journey.
A great game-based experience is one that is immersive. The player finds themselves as an integral part of an unfolding story with all of the twists and turns and discoveries. So what drove the Iliad, or Moby Dick or Star Wars for that matter all boils down to the very same construction the hero's journey, and it is this story-based construction that makes for an unforgettable, memorable and meaningful experience.
The Power of Human Emotion and Story
Above all, people engage with any content on a purely emotional level. While facts play their role in the end, people engage and make decisions with their hearts and not their heads; engagement comes from empathy and relating to the people and characters in a story. As Maya Angelou once said, I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
The Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey is the vital underpinning of great storytelling. It’s the architecture of a great story. It has a number of vitally important elements which, combined together, makes for the glue that keeps the participant engaged. It begins with the hero, a person on a quest, a mission, objective or subject of desire. The storyline tracks the hero from the definition of the ambition through a series of actions both for good and for bad along their journey. Along the way the hero encounters a number of characters, not the least of which is a villain, a force that stands in the way of reaching the objective and not only stands in the way, but conspires, to see to it that the hero’s hopes and dreams are dashed. Additional characters appear that are called foils which help to illuminate and make the hero richer, who is defined not only on their own merits but against the backdrop and their relationships with these “foil” characters. Finally, there is the sage, the wise one. We see this character throughout the ages whether it's Yoda or the kindly Prof. Marvel in the Wizard of Oz. These characters help the hero to shape their belief system and help and coach them on their track toward their ambition.
In my Emotional Intelligent Leadership Game, the character field is rich, with the player being identified as the hero, the Chief Executive of a troubled company, called Planet Jockey, in need of a turnaround and to be made more emotionally intelligent. Wolf industries, the villain with its unethical business practices, sets out to foil the hero and Planet Jockey at every step while a series of foils help to present and shape each individual situation that the player encounters. Of course, the sage is introduced, in this instance as the Chairman of Planet Jockey, an approachable wise counsel who after each question and situation is confronted, provides a thoughtful viewpoint on what the optimal answer was in each particular instance. Note indeed that the sage is linked to what millennials value, namely, mentorship.
Using what’s called a story arc, the progression of the hero’s journey, the gameplay, and the lessons to be imparted are arrayed along the journey experience. This is how player immersion is achieved. For example, in the Emotional Intelligent Leadership Game, a promising acquisition of “Vroom Inc.” central to reaching the ambition surfaces. We see then that the acquisition in later stages of the game is assured and then alas Wolf industries steps in and steals the acquisition out from under Planet Jockey and the player! The setback is then dealt with in later stages of the game and soon Eureka! Wolf is discredited and the acquisition returns to Planet Jockey, delivering the moral of the story: Staying true to your value systems in spite of setback pays long-term dividends.
Successful Game based learning engagement is rooted in the fundamentals, players become engaged because they identify with a hero, become absorbed in the quest and are literal participants as opposed to passive recipients. A plot, a hero, a villain, setback and redemption: the hero’s journey has got to be there.
Game-based Learning Checklist
When you're examining a potential game it's useful to look at a few things from the perspective of engagement so be sure you can check off these items as you examine the game:
1. Storyline: Is there a clear and distinct storyline? Are the characters well defined and is there an overarching storyline experience?
2. Emotion: Is the overarching story emotive and do the individual sequences the player encounters contain the human element that keeps the player engaged?
3. Authenticity: Is the storyline relatable? Can the player suspend disbelief and place themselves in the shoes of the characters and become part of the storyline experience?
4. Bravery Are situations depicted reflective of the spectrum of life's diversity of characters? Do they represent an honest picture people and most importantly do various groups have a place at the table?
5. Relationship: Has the gameplay been able to establish an overarching relationship between the game itself and the player?
Kevin Allen is founder and CEO of E.I. Games, author of “Emotify! The power of the human element in game based learning, serious games and experiential education”
One of the unique and positive aspects of gamified learning is its ability to make learning easier for a wide array of clients. From CEOs to brand-new employees, the cornerstone of gamification for learning is the same. While many of our blogs focus on the beneficial relationship between a successful, dedicated business model and gamified learning strategies, today we’ll get outside the box a bit and explore how gamification can be just as effective in a more academic and educational setting. Some of our best clients are both instructors and students. Below we’ll explain how gamification can enhance the EQ of educational clients and why that’s so important
EQ in Education
We’ve often shared why we believe EQ (emotional intelligence) is an indispensable asset in business, often increasing loyalty, participation, empathy, and overall morale in the workplace. But that dynamic is not singular to the business world. In fact, it is just as alive and well in schools and other student-teacher settings all over the world. While on the surface IQ might seem paramount to achieving quality academic performance, in reality, the extent of its value is highly dependent on EQ.
You see, similar to the partnership structures of a business, the relationship between an instructor and a student requires a willingness to engage with one another under pretenses of trust and community. Only a strong command and display of EQ can achieve this. In other words, both an instructor and their student could have an unusually high IQ, but a high EQ is what will create the channel for learning and the comingling of those IQs to happen.
Given the technology-saturated moment we find ourselves living in, it should come as little surprise that a lot of students already play video games, either on their phones or at their homes. From this, it should follow that incorporating game mechanics into the classroom is a fantastic method for increasing the productivity of a class. Here are a few ways that gamified learning can help students:
By Increasing Overall Engagement
Studies show that students are more likely to learn effectively if you are using a reward system. Badges, points, rankings, or checkpoints help translate the work the student is completing into a tangible benefit. By increasing engagement, you’ll also see a rise in learning retention as students will be able to relate to the content easier through practice than just reading or watching a lecture.
By Creating Classroom Enthusiasm
Gamification can be used to promote feelings of enthusiasm towards the subject matter, especially in subjects that students struggle with. By creating a gamified system with rewards and team-building measures, students will find themselves enjoying the classroom experience far more.
By Providing Instant Feedback
Most gamification systems generate instantaneous feedback, which students can use to see where they stand among their peers. This information can push a student to try the quiz or activity again to get higher placement and creates motivation for further lesson engagement.
By Augmenting Social Dynamics
Fostering interaction between students can sometimes be quite difficult. Gamified classrooms help students who have trouble with social interaction and give them a reason to work together. This is especially true if you create team competitions that require students to collaborate on challenges and see their work as a communal endeavor as opposed to an individual one.
The pros of gamified learning that we’ve illustrated above are certainly as beneficial to instructors as they are to students. Beyond those, perhaps the most fundamental trait of a good instructor is, paradoxically, a willingness to learn from students. Yes, the instructor’s job may be to be there to guide and bestow knowledge and expertise, but if they are not willing to grow with their students and show it, it’s unlikely the students will respond to lessons and instructions with anything but contempt. Gamification, and it’s a direct correlation to increased EQ, is a fantastic way to help instructors feel more empathetic towards their students and see their worth as both students and teachers. A healthy two-way street dynamic like this will go a long way in building a more motivated classroom environment where everyone feels valued for their time and effort.
Thinking about Gamifying Your Classroom?
E.I. Games is Here to Help!
The benefits of gamified shouldn’t be exclusive to the boardroom. Let E.I. Games enliven your classroom with our highly effective emotional intelligence training programs. With decades of combined experience in cultivating and delivering ground-breaking training, we are eager to help you make your classroom a more immersive and engaging space. To learn more about our live, game-based, and blended learning training services, contact us at (305) 938.0453