I’ve written before about ‘loss aversion’ – the concept that players can be motivated by the threat of losing something they have gained. Yukaichu refers to this as a Black Hat motivator that should be used  sparingly to prevent burn out. If you want to think of this in common terms of ‘the carrot and the stick’ – loss aversion is ‘the stick’. I’ve built my gradebook around the XP grading concept to avoid threat of punishment, but what if there were other ways to present loss aversion without a threat to the students’ grades?

In the popular game ‘The Legend of Zelda’ the main character, Link, has a life meter represented by a series of hearts. When Link takes damage he loses a heart. The player’s score is not decreased but if Link loses enough hearts he ‘dies’ and the player has to restart. The player masters combat skills in order prevent the loss hearts and prevent the loss of progress. The life meter or health bar (or really any combat system) all have this loss aversion model in some fashion. How can this be factored into a classroom without simply removing XP from a student’s grade (which would negate the purpose of showing progress)?

My initial thought is to create a heart-based ‘life meter’ which will be tied to the Avatar Type power bonuses. For example, I had proposed in my previous post that the Power Bonus of a ‘mechanic type’ might be a 10% bonus on ‘tech’-style missions. The Mechanic would start a unit with 2 hearts in the life bar but would lose a heart if a required ‘Flipped Classroom content’ was not completed by the due date. If the Mechanic loses both hearts the lose the Power Bonus. If they lose an additional heart they might lose the avatar’ special skill as well since they will be so weak. The Mechanic player would still be able to earn full credit if the assignment is submitted after the due date but would not recover the heart without some extra effort.

This would be a mild ‘stick’ that would not impede their ability to show their progress in the XP system. The loss of hearts could be applied to any deadline and, when combined with the other carrots I offer, might provide some additional motivation; especially in the early habit building phase of the class.

Again, thoughts and suggestions are always welcome in the comments or at my Twitter Handle @MrPowley.

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