The role of objectives in games

Whenever you play a game, it’s very common to be taken to a “mission briefing”  section. It’s usually a screen or a cutscene, in which the gamer is provided with the context and motive for that very part of the game. In Devil May Cry 4, Mission 1 starts in this “Mission Screen”:

Knowing what you have to do, at least in games, helps you focus, as you won’t wander around, wasting (sometimes precious) time, which would eventually lead you to lose your interest in the game and end up picking something else to play.

Also, during the Mission, and depending on how the story progresses, events will take you to other side missions (or milestones). In DMC4, Mission 1 has some milestones, things that you have to do in order to take the mysterious enemy down:

In order to accomplish Mission 1 you are told to perform a series of moves (this is part of the tutorial; Mission 1 in games usually have this feature; more about it in the Concept of Tutorial section.)

The idea of milestones is particularly interesting: Instead of having positive feedback only once, at the end of the mission, you accomplish five mini-parts of the mission, increasing your satisfaction level and sense of achievement.

The same contrast can be seen in class. You can tell your students they have an objective to achieve in 100 minutes. After some hard work, they are told, 1h 40 min later, they succeeded. For the whole lesson there is one brief moment they feel they did something.

If, however, you establish milestones and tell them what to do, things can be significantly different:

Mission 1 – 5 min – read a text and answer some questions to check comprehension;
Mission 2 – 2 min – find chunks which will help them accomplish the Lesson Objection (the ultimate mission)
Mission 3 – 10 min – practise the pronunciation of the chunks;
and so on

In a 100-minute-lesson they will have experienced some 7 to 10 moments of fullfillment. This will boost their self esteem, as they will have been successful in their learning some 10 times during a lesson at school. Very different from the frustrating moments they have probably lived in the past.

Most probably, nothing from what I’ve written about is very different from what you do today, in your teaching routine. Teachers have their milestones, which they set throughout the course of the lesson and work hard to make happen, preferably by leading the whole of the group to the final moment of objective achievement. The problem is we keep those milestones to ourselves, and they become the teacher’s goals, when the right thing to do would be to delegate his/her students what in fact the students should achieve within the amount of time they have in class.

Whenever you are planning a lesson, set objectives along it and don’t forget to tell your students what goals they are supposed to achieve. This procedure will certainly improve the classroom atmosphere and morale of the whole group.


Game On
Comments on the OBJECTIVE section

4 pensamentos sobre “The role of objectives in games

  1. Even when the amount of time between missions is long, if the objective is firmly set, people won’t mind playing for hours and get frustrated in the end. Take RPGs, for example! 🙂

    • I believe there’s a time/involvement coefficient that game developers / educators should be aware of. I bet game developers are.
      The longer you play a game, the more interested in the story you are and your attention spam would go from 5 minutes to up to 2 hours. But it would require you to be completely involved in the game story. Again, RPGs are great because one of their main focus is actually the story itself.

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