Gamification: Still a bad word

Gamification: Still a bad word

Summary: Bring up the word ‘gamification’ to many game makers and you’ll get a common response -- a facial expression that’s similar to what you might have after accidentally stepping in dog droppings on the street. Google ‘Gamification, bad word’ and you’ll find your share of diatribes against this whole trend, though the problem seems to be less about the idea -- using game-like mechanics to change behavior -- and more about the term used to describe it.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Bring up the word ‘gamification’ to many game makers and you’ll get a common response -- a facial expression that’s similar to what you might have after accidentally stepping in dog droppings on the street.

Google ‘Gamification, bad word’ and you’ll find your share of diatribes against this whole trend, though the problem seems to be less about the idea -- using game-like mechanics to change behavior -- and more about the term used to describe it.

Last year, the Game Developers Conference, an annual video game industry conference held each March, featured an entire tract of events devoted to the subject of Gamification. This year, the conference still includes the same content devoted to the topic, but instead of using the dirty G-word, that portion of the event is simply called Game IT (a name that GDC Director Meggan Scavio tells me that hasn’t won over any fans either).

And, she also says, next year the conference will probably will get rid of the separate gamification tract altogether (working that content into the rest of the show instead) since the show’s target audience, professional game developers, still largely consider gamification a marketing ploy, rather than something that can be used to -- as author Jane McGonigal argues -- change the world.

I tend to agree with McGonigal. Gamification, or whatever word you want to use to describe it, can be used for powerful stuff. Take, for example, the countless diet and fitness apps that make a game out of getting healthy. Since I don’t make games, I guess I’ll never quite understand the visceral reaction -- kind of like a vampire running into a room filled with garlic -- that some traditional game makers have to this whole movement.  Sure, I can appreciate the argument that it’s a bastardization of an art form, etc., but in a lot of ways, it’s also a unique opportunity to apply those skills in a way that touch people in truly meaningful -- even life-saving -- ways.

Topic: Mobility

Libe Goad

About Libe Goad

Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync.

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  • RE: Gamification: Still a bad word

    first post bug, sigh
    CobraA1
  • RE: Gamification: Still a bad word

    The idea of gamification is simple: Make real life productivity more fun.

    Of course, whether that's realistic or just a pipe dream is an open question, as is the concern that it may make light of things that maybe should be more serious.

    "but instead of using the dirty G-word, that portion of the event is simply called Game IT (a name that GDC Director Meggan Scavio tells me that hasn???t won over any fans either)."

    Yeah, the word "game" is the problem there. Too closely associated with entertainment. Perhaps "award" is a better term.

    After all, if you think about it, awards are a really ancient form of what we now term "gamification." Getting a medal at an Olympic sport seems totally normal to us, but if you think about it, it's actually one of the more accepted forms of gamification.

    "still largely consider gamification a marketing ploy"

    Yeah, because marketing departments have largely overdone the gamification thing :/.

    I'm a gamer, and I'm on the fence on this. If done well, gamification works in many cases. But it's often done poorly, or in cases where it doesn't work.

    I don't think it's entirely clear how gamification will work, but it will be interesting to watch and see how much it really helps things in real life.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Gamification: Still a bad word

    Primarily, if you can interject a little light-hearted banter into a serious moment, it can have a significant positive impact. Taking real life subjects and making them more like games, with incentives, can be harder than it looks. We all struggle with life being "too short to be serious all the time". If you're being serious *all* the time, you're losing out on poking a little fun at yourself or the situation at hand.

    Some people, in various industries, take productivity as a harsh reality, when in fact, it can be made a little easier with a smile and a happy attitude. Turning it into a game, as in "10 points for each pipe cap I machine, and see if I can make 1 million points by the end of my shift..." kinds of things help to make light of a boring work schedule, but it never really creates the game-like interfacing that many so hard-headedly rely upon for their gaming fix.

    I prefer the Xbox 360 controller over the PS3's or typical PC/Mac mainstays, mouse & keyboard. It fits my hands better and there's less wrist fatigue. IMHO. Not everything can be made into a game. PR is one that's typically taboo. Another is the mortician; that's a little more than wrong to try to make a game out of that... The coroner is also out, due to similarities to the mortician (and the typical internal workings). There have been strides to bring cooking and music into the fray, and for the DS the "Cooking Mama" series helps to give younger people a look at the real life tasks of preparing a meal. "Rock Band" brought the rock band, music and *equipment* to the masses with a really powerful but simple singing and instrument-playing rhythm system. The latest, as mentioned in the article, the "fitness" games. These are different ways to lose the weight or get back in shape, but why spend the hundreds of dollars a year on gyms and trainers, when you can just break out the game-related specialized equipment, pop the game into the console, and work out to the on-screen trainer. All this costs maybe $100. Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus are just two! "Biggest Loser" and the EA fit games all make this list. Some do not require special 'controllers'. The Kinect for Xbox 360 offers gamers the opportunity to look foolish in the comfort of their homes, wearing whatever they choose and play "Dance Central" or "Dance Central 2" and work out to some of the greatest songs of all time while dancing.

    I guess it all depends on where you're going to get your inspiration from, and go from there... Everyone has their own means of inspiration and ways to use it. Maybe that's what the g-word is all about-- inspiration to make a game out of something other than typical game subjects-- and put it to work... Maybe...
    aryu.limitless@...