Reading Garden: Motivating through play

Gameplay interface

Games can be motivating, and gamification is often used to motivate behaviour outside of the game, whether it be an exergame which motivates physical activity by setting a horde of zombies after you, or an organizational game which motivates one to complete household chores through basic competition with your family or roomates. While these games tend to address short-term motivational problems (e.g., exercise once), they are less suitable for long-term ones (e.g., get into shape).  Reading the textbook assigned with an undergraduate course is one such longer-term motivational problem. Despite it being generally accepted that reading the textbook makes for stronger students, it is often not completed because students are not motivated to do it daunting nature of reading (and retaining) an entire textbook of material and the perceived lack of importance of the task, due to the belief that the same material will be covered elsewhere.

In this project we create Reading Garden, a casual game where players can earn gold by completing reading challenges, which helps them grow their garden and level up. Reading Garden is a game geared at getting undergraduate students to overcome the longer-term motivational problem of reading the textbook. It helps motivate through structured rewards, simple gameplay, and cooperative and competitive social mechanics.  It leverages the ‘freemium’ model, where players can always play the game, but can purchase power-ups and decorations through an in-game currency. In our game, players earn this currency with time rather than real-life money; players earn currency by reading a section of the textbook and answering a few comprehension questions rather than paying with a credit card. These challenges, if failed, can be retried over an hour later, and earn bonus currency when completed by the date the corresponding reading was assigned in class.