We are currently witnessing an attack on gamification in many forums: the passing trend of marketing, ephemeral and futile mode, bullshit , domestication tool, etc. Some skeptics taunt the ethical aspect of this process according to A) its hedonism (going from the expression “breads and games” to Judeo-Christian asceticism for whom living, working and learning can not be done in the world. pleasure) and B) its power to control the masses (and thus, a product of capitalism that will further control the minds of humans).
It was after having “discussed” with Vincent Olivier (of the Building ) that I asked myself the question about the ethics of gamification. In order to offer an optimistic and counter-current view of these criticisms, I decided to write my six principles of social gamification .
1. Playing does not mean pleasure
Although the majority of game design theorists define the game by the notion of pleasure, this finding simply does not hold water. The players know very well that the game is not always pleasant, and that like other arts, it brings out emotion, like that easier to create, pleasure. In addition to fun, the game is synonymous with frustration, envy, confidence, joy and a host of other emotions.
When I’m told that we play mainly because it’s fun, I have to admit my confusion. What is the difference with other types of leisure? Reading a book, watching a movie, playing sports, if these activities are practiced, it’s because they are fun … and they are not defined by the more reductive aspect of pleasure. For me, the game is essentially defined by its interactivity (sorry for Callois, Huizinga, Zimmerman and others). Of course, the book, the film and other cultural products are interactive (ie each person reads a book differently ), but it is the part of interactivity in these mediums that is playful. It is, for me, similar to saying that the written part of the game is literature .
Gamification is not only associated with pleasure. Hedonism, for whom pleasure is an end, can not be associated more with gamification than with any other form of leisure. And if marketing has already integrated other forms of art (literature, cinema, etc.), the game is no more hedonistic than these other forms of leisure.
2. Gamification is not related to the capitalist system
What connects its different notions: “Loaves and games”, ” socialist competition ” and “commercial gamification”? These are all motivational processes that have been historically designed to motivate the production of workers.
And if we go further, as Huizinga demonstrated in Homo Ludens , gambling is at the root of many components of society: economy, justice and the arts have developed into a structure of role and play.
Gamification is therefore not a beast of the capitalism system (for whom money is the main motivation vector). In the sense of marketing, it is used primarily as a method to increase the morale and productivity of employees or to search for new customers.
In fact, gamification is a tool , as Jane McGonical has so aptly pointed out . Players are so motivated by the game that it would have been surprising not to see organizations or companies think of the real impact of this dedication. Players spend years understanding an invented system like World of Warcraft . Now, the challenge is to find ways to get this motivation back into the real world and help with social problems like building libraries in Africa .
3. Marketing’s interest in gambling is good news
Is this surprising? Admittedly, this principle can not be defended against anti-capitalists since they intrinsically contain a notion of commercialization. On the other hand, for the others (I hope for the company that you are numerous), commercial gamification brings additional research on the behavioral components of the game: motivation and reminder. First, motivation breaks the chain of inertia: an important factor in the learning phenomenon. That is, the game intrigues the players enough to introduce them to an apprenticeship. Secondly, the reminder helps to retain the players and mark the learning in the long run.
At the level of ethics, the main interest of the appropriation by the marketing is in the recognition of its statute . The use of commercial gamification seems to be more of an inescapable historical movement in society where gambling is becoming more and more important.
On the other hand, if you are like me and you believe in the positive virtues of the game at the social, educational and entertaining level, the integration of play in the different spheres of public space can help societal development. And since marketing has a major impact on society, its support will help advance the recognition of this analysis.
Ultimately, the knowledge developed by marketing can be reused in other spheres such as education, awareness and continuing education.
4. Marketing does not always simplify the notion of games
For now, gamification tests are all more or less associated with badges, points and levels as indicated by the most often cited successes of senscritique.com , foursquare , Air Miles, Starbucks , etc. But, the question arises more and more: could there be more in marketing games than simple virtual or commercial rewards?
It’s no coincidence that gamification has become more interesting for marketing agencies since the advent of social gaming. The recent successes of relatively inexpensive games like Angry Birds and Facebook gaming applications have sparked a huge potential for agencies. Low-cost games that have communities of players: a great place to interest potential customers.
On the other hand, if you really think about it, more complex games like Kingdom Hearts (PS2) are also gamification. It is used by the Disney company who asked a talent developer, Square-Enix, to build a game around his franchises. Film companies also lend their intellectual property to different producers both as a derivative, but also, in the case of quality games, to value these properties.
Thus, gamification does not always include simple game mechanics, it can also be used for more complete games. In this sense, gamification will be more and more interested in complex systems and gone further than badges and rewards.
5. Education made gamification long before gamification existed
The term gamification gained great visibility at the last South By Southwest festival . One of his activists, Seth Pribatsh described it as a new layer that would act on society, an addition that would become the trend in marketing for the next decade .
In return, you know who used gamification well before marketing. The scouts. Cadets. The school. In short, any organization that touched youth and wanted to create motivation and help development. Gamification was not invented by marketing, it gave it a commercial vector .
In the early 1990s, some schools were teaching classes using the PC Civilization game . More and more schools, museums and institutions are integrating games with their experience to help develop skills. Serious games have experienced a revival in recent years and participate in social gamification.
Thus, the gathering of ideas around the new concept of “gamification” has mainly been used to share learning about the use of the game in non-fun activities.
6. Social gamification is an alternative to commercial gamification
What is social gamification? The integration of fun concept in non-playful social spheres. It is to use gamification for societal purposes, such as during learning, awareness-raising or democratization activities. It’s also about using the intrinsic power of nonprofit games to turn public space into a public sharing space.
In social gamification, there is also the idea of citizen participation where everyone can participate in culture and science . If the game is interaction, gamification can coordinate this interaction to make sure to find participants and promote exchanges.
At this moment, the most interesting example of transforming social space through gamification is Jane McGonical who turned the NYPL documents overnight .
Gamification, bullshit? No, gamification can be used for positive purposes if it is social. It remains a viable alternative to commercial gamification and makes it possible to develop a public space of sharing.
Like the libraries of the 3rd place.