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The Trouble with Pirates

behavioral science e-learning game design gamification motivation narrative Jun 19, 2020

By intentional design, the Sententia Gamification Level 3 Master Craftsman Certification is a 3-day Pirate Themed, immersive Master Mind event. From the location, to the food, scheduling of master mind vs. creative time, extra-curricular activities, and even the room set up, all are strategically mapped out to enable the participants to enter a magic circle of play and creation.

Once inside the magic circle, outside things do not distract – we take over an historic inn, in a little Texas town, where the streets roll up by 8:00 p.m. The learner’s focus is solely on the event and the activities taking place within that world.

This full immersion requires a form of submission to rules, involves a willing suspension of "normal" and a conscious and voluntary acceptance of the conditions of the master mind environment. Surprisingly, this in return, gives the participants unrestricted access to possibilities for full participation.

And we have successfully shaped and iterated that model for four years. And then there was COVID19.

The dilemma of giving our participants a meaningful and memorable event – one where they can explore new content, forge novel ideas, receive validation from recognized experts, connect with peers, make new friends – seemed improbable at best.

But armed with determination and a commitment to serve our clients, who have both the desire and the need to learn how to deploy gamification for learning programs, we accepted the gauntlet thrown.

We started by tearing apart the schedule and putting it back together again. Instead of a 3-day format we extended to five, 3.5-hour days. With a spiraled flow of high intensity interaction and feedback, a feeling of challenge, specific goals, and a networking space where participants could get the sense of honest engagement, and directly work on the design of their projects either alone or with a group. 

Agendas were made and a “supplies needed” checklist were sent out each night for the next day’s training activities.

We prepared Pirate Treasure boxes that were shipped to each participant including cool pirate swag, all the documents and design tools they would need on a thumb drive message in a bottle. We added in a leather bound learning journal and a mug because our sessions started early each morning, (or late at night – we had 6 different time zones participating) and this way we could all enjoy a cup of our favorite beverage as we kicked off the event each day.

A private WhatsApp group was set up for the participants to share questions, resources, logistics, pictures, jokes, links, etc. It served as a single-source location for just-in-time communication, which proved invaluable.

In addition to Zoom, we used the platform. Inside the platform, participants can move freely among tables to converse and collaborate or move away to avoid distractions and disruptions as needed. By the third morning, participants were asking if we would set up afternoon access for them to Remo so they could meet with each other to collaborate. Exactly what we had hoped for because this is what we experience during the live events.

And perhaps most delightful of all were our “social hours” – held each evening for one hour of casual conversation, laughter, “get to know you” activities and tribe building.

We’ll now follow up now with 90-days of group coaching as participants deploy their gamification in a real-life setting. We have university courses, corporate training, money management for enlisted service-persons, a church mission trip, emotional intelligence, domestic violence awareness, art history, work from home safety training, a self-care app for kids -- the diversity of the projects is both challenging and enchanting.

I’ll continue to share the success of these talented and tenacious learning professionals. I believe you will marvel in their creations, just as we have marveled at their determination and dedication.

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