Choose Your Pwn Adventure: Adding Competition and Storytelling to an Introductory Cybersecurity Course

Tom Chothia, Chris Novakovic, Andreea-Ina Radu and Richard J. Thomas
Presented in the Transactions on Edutainment Journal (IV)

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Narrative is an important element of gamification. In this article, we describe the development of a framework that adds a narrative to an 11-week cybersecurity course. The students play the part of a new IT security employee at a company and are asked to complete a number of security tasks, for which they receive flags. As well as being used to assess their performance throughout the course, students can send the flags they find to a number of different characters to progress the storyline in different ways. As the story unfolds they find deceit, corruption and ultimately murder, and their choices lead them to one of three different endings. Our framework for running the story and the exercises is completely self-contained in a single virtual machine, which the students each download at the start of the course; this means that no resource-consuming backend or cloud support is required. We report on the results of qualitative and quantitative evaluations of the course that provide evidence that both the VM and the story contained within it increased student engagement and improved their course results.


The article is available here.