Friday, April 8, 2011

Living on a Gamified World?

In this article, game developer Dan Bahamon considers how gamification can help improve people's lives.

I agree that most people think of achievements when they hear gamification, and I do agree that these little achievements will help many people to organize and learn about things that are good for them and the community, anywhere from getting kids to eat vegetables to reducing water over usage, awarding points and rewards will really help build these core behaviors.

Now the term "gamification is the million dollar question, because up to now it seems something an app could handle, so it would be called "applification" or something like that.

I've been thinking, and perhaps there are two game elements missing from this, a clear big end goal and enemies. This reminds me of the Ted Talk by Jane McGonigal.  She talks about making massive online games to get people working on a big goal like low fuel usage.  This would resemble something closer to gamification in my opinion, but to be honest, there is still some doubt on my mind. One belief I have that I really think is true is that people will not reach their potential if they are not emotionally involved with what they are doing. So some world wide problems might not motivate many people to play.

The only goal of gamification is to help society improve. So I would suggest that instead of looking at games to solve big problems in the world, we turn to games to help each and every human reach their goals and dreams. Thus making a better world.

Perhaps the closest example to help you visualize what I'm thinking it would be something like second life. But much more elaborate and with real life opportunities, with careers people can pursue, sort of like Warcraft, but with the difference that you are given real tasks and you are evaluated on performance.

So for example, Let's say I want to be a police officer, and I'm 10, going out of my house at 1 am to fight crime is not a possibility, but with the use of games, there can be events like car chases, robberies and more, could be either simulated or user triggered. And as I play the game I gain badges or ranks that allow me to play or do different things in the game, and by the time I'm 18 I would have already understood many of the challenges and difficulties of this career, helping me make my decision on what career to choose. This career changing decisions are easier to make in game when young than during midlife chaos.

This sort of reminds me of Wannado City, a wonderful place where kids get to run around in a kid-only "city", and they are given jobs they choose, like being chefs, police officers, scientists and many others.

In conclusion, gamification should promote and encourage people to be who they want to be and to follow their dreams, It should help them understand what they say they want, and track their experience that will later be rewarded by real life jobs. It is a big dream, it would definitely take a world wide collaboration to accomplish it, but that didn't stop Wikipedia from being the top encyclopedia on earth.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear opinions, There is nothing more productive that teamwork.

Daniel Bahamon is the founder of Impudia games. His goals are not only to entertain and engage players around the world but to use this technology to help kids around the world learn by playing.


Randy Hsiao said...

Having been in the entrepreneurial world for a while and talking to many serial entrepreneurs, I've come to dislike the phrases "gamification" and "game mechanics." These days it seems obligatory that every non-game app -- web, mobile, or otherwise -- adds some kind of badge/reward point collection system. Essentially, everyone wants to force a game layer on their app.

Anyway, I'm not sure if Jane McGonigal has used the word gamification in her talks or books, but at least she's actually making games (referred to as "reality" games). I think you're referring to games that're simulations set in the virtual world. Both are great approaches at bringing awareness of issues to people. Some even offer possible solutions.

But, I question at what point do we take it too far. It's one thing that through a game/simulation I appreciate the severity of world hunger and begin to get involved in the efforts in finding solutions, it's another if my motivation is purely to win a made up game.

I recently commented about this in my blog:

I very much agree with Heather Chaplin that, to paraphrase, life isn't all fun and games:

Distilled said...

Having recently finished "Reality is Broken" by J McGonigal - I have to say that the whole "gamification" idea is an encouraging one.

Randy is right that McGonigal is heavily involved in "alternative reality" gaming as well as "virtual reality" gaming (check out for the latest ARG stuff). Because they involve a lot more "real world" participation, alternative reality games give players that "emotional attachment" to the game process which other, virtual based, games might not.

Randy, you raise an interesting point on your blog about the ethics of introducing gameplay into sensitive areas such as disaster appeals. I believe that the upshot is that people who would ordinarily help those suffering in disaster struck areas will continue to do so regardless of whether its based on achievements or point totals, but those who might not ordinarily be motivated to do so could also be spurred on to help (and hopefully become more aware of the situation at the same time).

The only problem that I could see with gamification is the idea that it might be "trivialising" certain elements of serious life. However, as my lecturer used to say "something is real if it is real in it's consequences" - gamification is doing good if the net benefit is good. Sure, it's a pragmatic way of looking at it (and its one short of saying "damn the means") but as a stopgap I think it works until we can begin to build a society that is willing to help those in need on their own.

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