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Esports Class Gamified Like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Video Game

esports tournament

Students competed in a collegiate esports tournament on Feb. 3, 2022 at the USF Marshall Student Center.

By Elizabeth L. Brown

TAMPA (February 24, 2022) – A glance at the Badgr leaderboard shows Elegant Fish at the top of the heap. Quotable Beagle clocks in a close second, having completed almost as many badges, or class assignments, to remain competitive.

These players are not only jockeying for positions on the leaderboard. They are classmates working to complete as many assignments as possible to “unlock” an A in The Business of Esports class offered in the Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management program at the University of South Florida.

The syllabus and its coursework have been gamified.

The more assignments students complete, the more points they earn. To get an A in the class, students need to collect at least 8,950 points to reach Prodigy status. If students acquire 7,950 points, they earn Emperor status and receive a B.

“The class is more like a choose-your-own-adventure,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Instruction Greg Greenhalgh, who designed the course that teaches the business side of the $2 billion gaming industry. “This is just like a video game wherein you must collect certain tools, attain new skills, or learn new information.”

greg greenhalgh

Greenhalgh said he first heard about the idea of gamifying a class from another faculty member and thought that would work perfectly for a class about the business side of esports.

“If there’s any class that’s ripe for gamification, that’s it,” he said. “I also think from a pedagogical standpoint, it gives students more buy-in. They’re able to choose to do the things that they’re going to be more interested in, so hopefully, they will be more invested in the class.”

To his knowledge, it is the only gamified course being taught in the USF Muma College of Business.

Greenhalgh said as he was building the esports course and its curriculum, he was “very loosely” basing its structure on the video game The Legend of Zelda, a fantasy action-adventure game.

The popular video game has the hero go on magical quests through the kingdom to defeat a beast and save the princess.

While esports students don’t travel through labyrinths to find hidden treasure chests or try to save a princess, they are part of a larger journey.

Students start with acquiring the Bare-Minimum Badge and as they learn new skills, they earn more badges. The semester’s coursework culminates in the student-hosted esports tournament and job fair, which is also marketed and promoted by the students.

“As a group, we have to collectively acquire the skill to successfully run an esports tournament and esports job fair. This is the narrative of the game. The game just happens to be this class. As a student, you need to contribute to the esports tournament and job fair, and to do that, you need to acquire skills so that it’s a success,” he said.

“For this class, you’re not collecting swords and extra lives and that sort of stuff, you’re collecting actual transferable skills that hopefully you’ll be able to use in life or later on down the road.”

This is the second semester the class is being offered at USF. The course was unveiled in the spring 2021 semester. For the first time, the class opened to non-business majors this spring. The class roster filled up quickly and had a waiting list of students.

The class is partnering more closely with USF Esports, the university’s recreational gaming club. Greenhalgh anticipates housing a portion of the class in the upcoming 2,500-square-foot Esports Living Lab inside the Recreation and Wellness Center.

esports tournament

Students competed in a collegiate esports tournament on Feb. 3 at the USF Marshall Student Center.

Overall, Greenhalgh said students seemed to appreciate the class being structured like a video adventure game.

“Many students say, ‘Just tell me the assignments I have to do.’ But the gamified version makes them pick which assignments they want. And then they buy in and they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it now,” he said.

“Moving forward, as a society, we’re going to have gamified components in our life where we won’t know how we lived without them, and they’ll just be ingrained in every day.”