Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gamification

I'd just like to start this post by saying that, apparently, the Prince of Excess himself decided recently to set up his drum-kit in my brain and never stop playing. As such, I've been getting some pretty horrendous head-aches, so posting schedule may be out the window for a little bit until this gets under control. However, the Maraviglia must go on!

Gamification

Spend five minutes with me and you'll know two things - I think games are more important than out culture gives them credit for, and that gamification is the future of mankind. Big statement, I know, but it is true.
There must be a reason why so many people play games instead of the real world.
It couldn't be that the real work sucks or anything, could it?
For those not in the know, gamification is the process by which one introduces games theory and thinking into an otherwise un-game-like situation. An example could be Chorewars, a project I am working on at the moment to make doing household chores into a card game, or a roleplaying game where you learn Latin, or CodeHero - an FPS game where you learn to code in JavaScript.

These "gameful" variations create far richer and more engaging experiences for their players because they tap into deeper reward systems built into the human brain than other teaching or motivation methods do. For starters, these rewards are intrinsic - a game isn't a game unless it is voluntary.

The Intrinsicness of Play

Whilst "intrinsicness" isn't a word, I believe it should be. But that is off topic.

"Play" and "games" are some of the hardest words to define. That is, define properly. You can say that "play" is any action you do that is "fun", but then, what is "fun"? If you go down that road, you're likely to find the beginning of it again and the realisation that you've made no real progress, pissed off a bunch of theorists, and confused yourself more than you thought possible.

However, there is one definition that I enjoy greatly and believe that it sums up the feeling of "play" better than any other. It goes something along the lines of this:
Play is unnecessary work that we choose to do.
Think about that. There has never been a game that you've been forced to play that you've found fun, right? Perhaps one that a friend pushed you into playing, but never one where, if you didn't play it, you wouldn't be able to function. Because that would be silly.
This all makes sense. Everything else in the world currently doesn't.
Solution: make everything else in the world this. Duh.
Games are, by their nature, voluntary and intrinsically valuable - you get whatever reward you want out of it. If you sit down to play some Minecraft with the sole intention of relaxing, you'll get just that. No one else cares about your achievement of building a virtual cathedral, but you sure as hell do.

The same can be said of your favourite subjects at school - especially elective subjects. You feel great about doing work early, or just going to class, because it is work you don't have to do, but like doing.

When you combine this intrinsic desire to pursue something with a education or otherwise un-gameful pursuits, you create stronger ties to the material.

So What Can Gamification Do?

We know what gamification is, and we know why it is more rewarding and engaging than normal methods, but what can it actually do?

LOADS.
Saving the Earth, one experience point at a time.
Projects like Quest to Learn - a school where New York children are taught primary and secondary education through roleplaying methods - or SuperBetter - a game to help hospital patients feel better about themselves or about their lives - or a myriad of others are springing up.

Hell, I've already mentioned Chorehammer and Light, two projects I am working on to help gamify the world.

Gamification will see our world transformed from this broken mockery we're all walking around justifying to ourselves into the world it should be. The real world must be broken, otherwise we'd be seeing an exodus from video games into "real life", other than the complete opposite. Video games are giving people what they need better than real life, so real life needs an upgrade. And what will we get in this real life DLC?

We will have children who yearn to go to school, not avoid it and stress themselves out to the point of suicide. We will have better functioning economies where money wont represent the be-all-and-end-all (as never before has there been a more extrinsic reward than money). And we will have a happier world at large.

Besides, is it really so hard to let yourself relax a little bit and just play a freakin' game once in a while?!

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