The Problem with Gamification


Margaret Robertson gets to the core of the problem I’ve had with my thinking on how to apply game mechanics effectively to non-game situations:

That problem being that gamification isn’t gamification at all. What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience. Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards. They’re great tools for communicating progress and acknowledging effort, but neither points nor badges in any way constitute a game. Games just use them – as primary school teachers, military hierarchies and coffee shops have for centuries – to help people visualise things they might otherwise lose track of. They are the least important bit of a game, the bit that has the least to do with all of the rich cognitive, emotional and social drivers which gamifiers are intending to connect with.

She’s not completely pessimistic about it, and neither am I:

Gamification is the wrong word for the right idea. The word for what’s happening at the moment is pointsification. There are things that should be pointsified. There are things that should be gamified. There are things that should be both. There are many, many things that should be neither.

It’s important that we make the distinction between the two undertakings because, amidst all this confusion, we’re losing sight of the question of what would happen if we really did apply the deeper powers of game design to more everyday things – if we really did gamify them – and that question is a fascinating, exciting and troubling one. I really hope we get a chance to explore it properly.

Hide & Seek: Can’t play, won’t play

Games as work

This is “human computation,” the art of using massive groups of networked human minds to solve problems that computers cannot. Ask a machine to point to a picture of a bird or pick out a particular voice in a crowd, and it usually fails. But even the most dim-witted human can do this easily. Von Ahn has realized that our normal view of the human-computer relationship can be inverted. Most of us assume computers make people smarter. He sees people as a way to make computers smarter.

Odds are you’ve already benefited from von Ahn’s work. Like when you type in one of those stretched and skewed words before getting access to a Yahoo email account or the Ticketmaster store. That’s a Captcha, which von Ahn developed in 2000 to thwart spambots. Or there’s von Ahn’s picture-labeling games, which have lured thousands of bored Web surfers into tagging 300,000 photos online — doing it so effectively that Google bought his idea last year to improve its Image Search engine.

Full Story: Wired

(via mathpunk)

What’s wrong with ARGs and how to make them better

args are story games

ARG company Six to Start‘s CEO on the problems with ARGs and how to make them better.

Don’t have enough players
The people who play are weird
The people who play have no money
They’re not mainstream
We make games for the hardcore
We’re too expensive
We don’t scale
We lie (“this is not a game”)

His basic suggestions:

No more:

* viewing source code
* “de-stegging” (which, to be honest, sounds a bit like tea-bagging, and you don’t want to know what that means if you don’t already know)
* waiting for stuff to happen
* breaking codes
* breaking more codes
* making use of esoteric knowledge (for no apparent reason)
* viewing more source code
* solving stupid puzzles (for no apparent reason)
* (encouraging me to) buy stock in UV torch companies (because of above stupid puzzles and esoteric codes)
* more waiting; and importantly
* not telling me what to do

And more:

* short, snappy, fun gameplay (which may be entirely appropriate in the context of a longer, less snappy and more involved arc)
* stuff like what 42 Entertainment did with Last Call Poker: which was embed the game of Poker, something a sizeable proportion of the normal human populace understands, into a game that not many people understood
* stuff like what Jane McGonigal did with The Lost Sport, which was create a playground game that anyone, anywhere, could play, any when. Ignore all the rest of the stuff for The Lost Ring like the amnesiac sportspeople, that’s just a red herring. Ignore the blog network too, that was just a diversion. And the classy, expensive trailer video. Just concentrate on the game. You know, the fun bit.
* Oh, playtesting. That’s good. Because, you know, you’re making a game. So test it. Just like you’d test your user interface.
* use proper game design. That means thinking and not going “Well, I guess if we just ROT-13 this piece of text, then it’ll be fun!”
* make your games repeatable. A non-repeatable live ARG (ie one that starts at one time, runs for a period of time, and then finishes and is only really playable while it’s live) is the equivalent of investing a sizeable proportion of money on a big budget prime-time tv show that you demand everyone watch at the same time and can’t record to watch later. In the world of I WANT EVERYTHING NOW, that’s known as Being Stupid.
* Oh, and be social. You know, with your friends.

Full Talk: Six to Start

(Thanks Public Individual)

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