“Scavenging for Success: Games and Greatness in Campus Life Programming” ~Chris Sparks, Surelocked In Escape Games, email@example.com
When was the last time you played a game?
When was the last time you caught a ball or dealt out a deck of cards? Do you remember the last time you jumped rope or kicked a can? How long has it been since you opened a favorite board game or found the most elusive hiding spot in a high-stakes hide and seek contest?
Games are magic – through their rules, parts, and players, they use their simple fictions to teach us the facts about life. It is no coincidence that children learn to play games at such an early age; we learned how to be human by the games that we enjoyed as children. Our childhood games are and were so powerful because they taught us the vital skills that we would need to succeed in life. The games we play as adult learners are equally as valuable because they help us reconnect to that sense of intellectual curiosity of our youth as we hone those same skills. No matter how old we grow, there remains a tremendous power in playing.
The power of playing principle governs campus life programming. Games are the key to student attendance, engagement, and retention in campus life programming because they give students permission to play. Give your students an excuse to have fun again, and watch your campus programming be reimagined by unlocking their imaginations!
As someone who makes a living designing games, writing riddles, and crafting clues, it is astounding how a truth so self-evident remains so sparsely implemented. Hailing from Carnegie Mellon University, where I was both a Resident Advisor and Community Advisor as an undergrad, I witnessed firsthand the power of play galvanizing campus life programming. The secret to success was both its simplicity and scalability: challenge students to engage their imaginations, give them a chance to play, and let them have fun!
No matter how busy a student’s semester became, they would always show up for an entertainment experience. If campus life programmers advertised a vital “floor meeting” featuring necessary updates regarding dorm life or a session on destressing to ease into Final’s Week, the same few, loyal faces would attend. If campus life programmers hosted a board game night or pickup soccer game, there would be a waitlist.
While entertaining events for entertainment’s sake are all well and good, is there not a more effective way of communicating critical learning objectives and lessons to the students? How to both entertain and educate our adult learners with a single program? Like a medicinal pill hidden inside sweet candy, the trick was to carefully craft and tailor each event to teach the player the content that we wanted them to absorb, all under the guise of a simple game. Through trial and error, the clear favorite among the students and staff was found: thematic, immersive scavenger hunts.
Forget what you think you know about scavenger hunts – these new games revolutionized our campus life programming! These new scavenger hunts leveraged students’ competitive natures to the programmers’ advantage. Students were challenged to outscore their peers by racing to solve a series of riddles and complete a sequence of tasks before their opponents could do the same.
Unbeknownst to the players, we programmers had designed the scavenger hunt around the learning objectives and curriculum we wanted to impart upon our adult learners. Did students need to understand campus safety resources? There were riddles that lead players to health centers and tasks with campus safety officers. Did students need to be oriented and directed to various academic buildings? There were puzzles about libraries and clues in classrooms. Did new students need to familiarize themselves with the campus’ layout and culture? There were paths to victory that just so happened to be the most popular shortcuts across campus.
Through these scavenger hunts, we gamified the student experience. Transforming the world into a game granted programmers the ability to teach students without them realizing that they were even learning at all. Whether players won or lost was inconsequential next to the learning objectives imparted and the newfound success of campus life programming!
A successful program boasts high student attendance. In an increasingly demanding world, hosting an event prioritized by students already forced to balance far more than their generation should at such a young age seems impossible. How to persuade a stressed student to pick a campus life program over another hour of study or schoolwork? Enter an immersive scavenger hunt! On the surface, a fun game where the most taxing choice is how best to navigate the campus in the fastest manner possible. In reality, hours of students improving their mental health by relaxing and having fun!
A successful program fosters high student engagement. In an increasingly busy world, hosting an event where students are both present and engaged with the content is an increasingly herculean task. What program can compete with the entirety of the internet, shining on a screen in the palm of a student’s hand? Enter a competitive scavenger hunt! On the surface, a challenge to run around with fellow Freshmen at the end of Orientation Week, photographing locations and shooting videos. In reality, hours of students learning the layout of their new campus, all while generating social media content to promote their new university!
A successful program yields high student retention. In an increasingly isolated world, where a pandemic has fundamentally altered the stereotypical college experience, leveraging the latest technology to foster connections rather than deepen virtual isolation is paramount. What good is a campus’ programming if students feel disconnected from their school and their peers? Enter a cooperative scavenger hunt! On the surface, a challenge to complete a list of tasks before the clock runs out. In reality, hours of students bonding and building relationships with their fellow players, connecting them to a community and disconnecting them from Zoom!
Games are the key to student attendance, engagement, and retention in campus life programming because they give students permission to play. Give your students an excuse to have fun and watch your campus programming be reimagined by unlocking their imaginations! Entertaining, immersive scavenger hunts allow programmers to gamify the student experience, transforming the world into a game that teaches students without them realizing that they are even learning at all.
Games are magic – through their rules, parts, and players, they use their simple fictions to teach us the facts about life, and the fact is: there is a tremendous power in play, and your students need programs that give them the chance to have fun again.
After all, when was the last time they played a game?
SPRING 2023 (CLT) CAMPUS LIFE TRENDS MAGAZINE