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Gamification — How Much of It Is Really New? 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the achievement-unlocked-reading-this-post dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's nigh impossible to avoid all the chatter and buzz around the concept of gamification — using game mechanics to create engagement outside the world of videogames. Silicon.com has an interview with author Aaron Dignan, whose book Game Frame delves into the topic to try and pull out a few rules of engagement for businesses seeking to tap into the power of gaming to better motivate their staff. Dignan is fairly convincing, yet I can't help feeling there's a lot of hype and not necessarily a great deal of substance to all this gamification chatter. Perhaps the term itself is the problem — maybe 'playfulness' would be a better name for the concept. What do Slashdot readers make of the gamification movement and its evangelists?"
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Gamification — How Much of It Is Really New?

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @01:03AM (#35675138) Homepage

    I'll have to remember the term "gamification" next time my boss catches me playing Minesweeper.

    "It's gamification! This is motivating me!"

  • For people NOT obsessed with gaming?
    • You just have to start enjoying games!

      • by dltaylor (7510)

        OK:

        I need it run well natively on Linux, since the MS "we can access your hard drive at will" license, plus the "contact MS to get permission to change much of your system", is unacceptable to me, and while Mac OSX is a kind-of nice update to AmigaDOS, I don't have any desire to support the Mac culture.

        If there's a multiplayer mode, like Star Craft/Brood War, Civilization/Alpha Centauri/..., then I need pure LAN play, not "connect to our server", like the new Star Craft 2.

        I prefer RTS. How 'bout a decent A

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      For people NOT obsessed with gaming?

      Yes, there is a trick: simply do whatever it takes to reach the "Game over" the fastest possible. After a while, everybody will let you be.

    • by vivian (156520) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @02:34AM (#35675488)

      I used to be obsessed with gaming - then one day I woke up and decided I should be spending a few hours a day leveling myself up instead of hours a day leveling up some virtual toon.

      Now I spend about 1 to 2 hours a day doing the following: Getting physically fit by hitting the gym, cycling and sailing, and acquiring a real world skill like playing an instrument (Piano,guitar).
      it's much more reqardign than spending hours and hours leveling up a virtual toon in a virtual world so I could get the uber sword of whatever from the in WoW - for one thing I know it's not all going to be for nothing as soon as the next expansion pack comes out.

      Now I get out on the weekends and meet real people too, which sure beats reading trade chat.

      I don't miss online gaming at all.

      • by Raumkraut (518382)

        Well there's your mistake; you were never obsessed with gaming, you were obsessed with World of Warcraft.
        WoW is not the be-all and end-all of gaming, it's barely even the beginning. It is apparently little more than a thin veneer of video game wrapped around a Skinner Box.

      • I agree with your overall message, but you can still play games as well as doing all that. I do, and have all my life. Even when I was at my most addicted to games I'd still do other things. Even these days when I'm physically training 10 hours a week (on top of a 37.5 hours a week job), I still spend some evenings gaming or watching movies etc.

        I don't play that much online anymore, but it is definitely enjoyable with the right group of people.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Reminds me of this story [stackoverflow.com]. Stackoverflow employee who decided to stop playing WOW, and start leveling up at real life.
      • Wow... Learning a real instrument, rather than a gamepad facsimile thereof (Cue obligatory xkcd 'Rock Band' cartoon) - good man! Musical geeks seem to be few and far between where I work. Play the keyboard and learning the guitar here.
      • It sounds like you weren't playing games for fun, but merely ego. If your only reason for playing the game was getting an uber sword, then I guess you were doing it wrong and games aren't for you anyways.

        Please also note: not all games are RPGs, and not all games are WoW. Saying you were obsessed with gaming, but the only thing you played was WoW, doesn't truly mean you were a gamer, because that would mean you played games (plural).
    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      come on - you know you want to.

      and the first one is free!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tasks, achievements and goals exist in the world of work, and in the Warcraft Universe. So what else sets WoW and work apart?

    Grinding (case lists) and ganking (backstabbing managers) shit me to tears. I don't play WoW any more - should I treat work the same way?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Tasks, achievements and goals exist in the world of work, and in the Warcraft Universe. So what else sets WoW and work apart?

      Grinding (case lists) and ganking (backstabbing managers) shit me to tears. I don't play WoW any more - should I treat work the same way?

      False dichotomy... For example, you can switch to play "Angry birds" (if falling pigs is more to your taste).

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @01:21AM (#35675214) Journal

    At least I always feel like I'm playing Farmville when I talk to tech support. It's expensive and frustrating. I get nothing but empty promises for my efforts which make no difference in the real world, it's a real slog, and I wish people could speak English.

  • The Go game is supposed to have been invented to train an emperor's son in better strategy/military skills... and that was a big pair of thousands years ago (see Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]).
    Again and again, a new name on an old idea, someone is trying to sell something to people not needing nor wanting to buy it.
    • Besides, we make games out of anything. If there's a task that's a pain to get done, making it into a game makes it fun and seem to go by faster. Children can make games out of almost anything when inspired to (still haven't figured out how to make a game out of my little brother's chores around the house; he leaves it all for mom to do), and it seems to just be a part of our nature as humans. I think Dignan might be trying to make himself the next Malcolm Gladwell, but for business-related audiences.
  • Just because something suddenly has a trendy new name, does not mean the idea is new. We see this effect over and over... move along, nothing to see.

  • Old Concept (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @01:46AM (#35675286)

    The olympics used to demonstrate the martial skills of a soldier. Shot put, Javelin, relay races... these were all military skills.

    Play is practice. Even in the animal kingdom you see 'games' and play while juveniles practice their skills. There's even some theories that song and dance originally was an outreach of coordinating work.

    By historical standards what we view as work is unnatural. If you look at a tribal culture in which we existed for hundreds of thousands of years you'll see people working hard but they are talking to one another and being social. The idea of locking someone away to slave over paper is a pretty recent development.

    I would say that what we're really doing is re-discovering the innate mechanisms by which we best learn and it's not through mechanical determination it's through a more interactive and engaging process that works with--not against our nature.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I would say that what we're really doing is further perverting the innate mechanisms by which we best learn and it's not through mechanical determination it's through a more interactive and engaging process that works with-- [...] against our nature.

      FTFY. RTFA if you don't believe me. Below some relevant quotes:

      But gamification advocates do not preach the beauty and power of play. Perhaps without knowing it, they're selling a pernicious worldview that doesn't give weight to literal truth. Instead, they are trafficking in fantasies that ignore the realities of day-to-day life. This isn't fun and games—it's a tactic most commonly employed by repressive, authoritarian regimes.

      At a Google Tech Talk last year, Zichermann gushed about the low-cost opportunities this creates for business. He was particularly excited by Zynga's collaboration with 7-Eleven, a deal in which people could buy FarmVille credits along with a Slurpee. FarmVille credits didn't get you the Slurpee, Zichermann explained excitedly. Rather, customers paid real dollars for the virtual currency. "It's all money in and no money out!" he cried.

    • I don't have any mod points, so I'll just post: Well said.

      It's not about everything being a game, it's about simulating in a fun, engaging way the skills you need to be at your best at a job/hobby you (hopefully) have a desire to be good at.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      So you mean there was something inherently wrong by sitting in a cold room with 30 other kids listening to an old fart drone on and on endlessly without being allowed to speak or even fidget?

      Yeah I figured as much when I kept falling asleep.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      Well sailors use(d) song as a means of timing, so it is not impossible.

    • The olympics used to demonstrate the martial skills of a soldier. Shot put, Javelin, relay races... these were all military skills.

      The ancient Greeks used to lob cannon balls at each other in battle? News to me.

  • 'Gamification' (Score:3, Informative)

    by Keill (920526) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @01:48AM (#35675292) Homepage

    The problem with 'gamification' is that it's not about games!

    'Gamification' is about the application of (the lessons from) game theory, which has to do with psychology - the study of HOW and WHY we behave in such a manner - but not WHAT.

    'Game' theory is a misnomer - it's NOT about games in themselves at all - it's about the study of COMPETITION, and COMPETITIVE behaviour in general.

    Games are, of course, competitive activities, but so are puzzles, competitions, and life in general.

    'Game' theory is not about the specific application of the specific behaviour the word game itself represents, even if it forms PART of its application, and so considering games in such a manner is INCONSISTENT with how the word game is used, and what it represents, elsewhere in the language, and is therefore causing problems!

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DarrenTomlyn/20110311/6174/Contents_NEW.php [gamasutra.com]

    • So it's an unusual verbed form of "Game theory," then? I guess "gamification" is better than "game theorified."
    • Uhh, I appreciate your point of view; however, the type of "gamificaton" you are referring to (in relation to Game Theory) is more about strategy.

      There are other types of "gameification" which I think are more related to what TFA considered. It is called "role playing game" (best known as RPG). RPGs are being used to put people in "charge" of certain roles within a system; it is used as a "human simulation" to understand the decisions that people do and the non-rational reasons on why they do it.

      RPGs can b

      • by Keill (920526)

        (But that is not what cRPG's are actually about, but that is most definitely an argument for another time...).

        Games are an activity in which people compete in a structured environment by writing their own stories/(doing something for themselves).

        The main problem to do with this and work - is that although it CAN involve writing stories in the same manner, not all work does. Because of that, yes, some work can be turned into a game, but even then it's more about using competition itself, (i.e. a reward to be

    • by wjousts (1529427)

      The problem with 'gamification' is that it's not about games!

      Nope. You're wrong. Try reading TFA. It is exactly about games and nothing to do with game theory. It's about making work (or some other generally unpleasant activity) as engaging and rewarding as playing games with the idea that this will increase productivity.

      • by Keill (920526)

        Read my reply above - some of what it says is to do with that - but not all - it's still mainly about using rewards and competition to encourage/maintain certain behaviour - not all of which would be consistent with games - i.e. more game THEORY than games.

    • by kwolf22 (825499)
      In the education industry there's a lot of interest in the gamification of online courses. One thing that's often found lacking in an online class as compared to a face-to-face class is interaction. That is, online classes are either full of static text-based content, or one-way TV-style videos that require very little participation (communication & interaction) from students. However, one of the greatest strengths of online an online class is the ability to be asynchronous & self paced; allowing
      • by Keill (920526)

        But none of what you're talking about is specific to just games - some of it can be merely part of work or play in general, puzzles or competitions...

        • by kwolf22 (825499)

          Fair enough, in a general/abstract sense... But that's not my point. The point that I was trying to make is that online education is ripe for "gameification". This is because video games - especially online video games - are incredibly efficient mechanisms for learning, while online instruction is not - even though many of the high level patterns that you encounter in video game design are very similar to the patterns that you find in online instruction... In fact, the basic problem domain seems to be p

          • by Keill (920526)

            Nothing in what I read in your post above was specific to games - and that's the point I am making - even the implementation you try to speak of above can involve puzzles or competitions. To be honest, some MMO's also interleave games with elements of competitions and puzzles as-well - but then people don't fully understand the difference and the relationship between them, so...

            And this is the point I'm making - 'gamification' in general is NOT about games. Although it can involve games, because the basis

    • by hitmark (640295)

      If only so much of game theory was not based on a paranoid schizophrenic world view...

    • 'Gamification' is about the application of (the lessons from) game theory, which has to do with psychology - the study of HOW and WHY we behave in such a manner

      Bullshit. If game theory is a branch of anything, it's mathematics.

      • by Keill (920526)

        Yes, you're right in general, BUT, game theory has become so encompassing, that parts of it are purely a matter of psychology - and that is the part we're looking at here - NOT the mathematical side at all. (When you get down to it the entire universe is just maths, but such a perspective isn't always useful).

  • I believe that there is something fundamentally different between gaming and real life. You cannot respawn in real life. There are significant and measurable consequences for screwing up. Adapting a business model to a game is asking staff to adopt an 'all care, no responsibility' attitude.

    Now, having a gaming lounge in the office, with high spec PCs networked and all preloaded with L4D2 ready to play... now that's a different story. However, I don't think that's what they mean by gamification.
    • by Grygus (1143095)

      That sounds reasonable to me. However, playing only to win with no care for consequences sounds exactly like how big business is being run the last couple of decades, and most of those guys are making insane amounts of money, even in the middle of an economic crisis. Their position appears to be one that cannot lose, even when they fail. That's an enviable perch, is it not? Perhaps it is our viewpoint of real-life work which needs to adjust.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I believe that there is something fundamentally different between gaming and real life. You cannot respawn in real life. There are significant and measurable consequences for screwing up.

      For some, this is irrelevant (think: most CEO-s, most of the top level financials - Goldman-Sachs - want some other examples or can you already find them on your own?)

      Adapting a business model to a game is asking staff to adopt an 'all care, no responsibility' attitude.

      Guess what? The guys that can afford to believe in re-spawning are the ones that are most likely to decide the "rules of the game".

  • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @01:58AM (#35675336) Homepage
    This seems like just one more way to extract more work out of people that are increasingly disappointed with their station and ambitions (or lack thereof). It seems like both companies and individuals would do better to address the root issues. I don't want to have to put a game layer on top of my work to feel like I'm doing something important, and for good reasons.

    Or maybe I'm just too cynical.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I don't want to have to put a game layer on top of my work to feel like I'm doing something important, and for good reasons.
      Or maybe I'm just too cynical.

      Dystopian view: in the future, good reasons or not, there may be a medication for you.
      It only requires the majority of people to want it and you'll be "outside of the acceptable norm, need treatment".

    • by N1AK (864906)

      I don't want to have to put a game layer on top of my work to feel like I'm doing something important, and for good reasons.

      It's no different to games having scores, achievements etc. By your logic, the game should be compelling without any metrics of success or rewards. The reward is actually playing the game to begin with. Clearly people are motivated by competition, and/or bettering themselves. If providing mechanisms like that at work means that people work harder AND get more enjoyment, it's a good id

    • Your cynicism doesn't mean that the underlying reward principles of "gamification" don't work. Even military forces have long-known that they could avoid root issues by sugar-coating combat campaigns with "ranks" and "achievements."

      "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon."
        - Napoleon Bonaparte

  • If you want to avoid all the chatter and buzz around the concept of gamification, I recommend being me. Never heard of it. Is this a US thing?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm currently involved in an EU project looking at ways of creating incentives for people to make semantic annotations (http://www.insemtives.org) It's somewhat subtler and quite a bit more interesting a topic than this very brief article has space to suggest :)

    Creating entertaining activities that also have worthwhile by-products in terms of data produced is quite a big deal; look at the spectacular success of Galaxy Zoo, Moon Zoo and the other Citizen's Science Alliance projects for evidence. Taking 'play

    • by herojig (1625143)
      I played Sea Fish, and I get your point. Well done. But while I can see how it makes sorting pictures more fun then using a file manager or iPhoto, how will this concept scale to solving complex business problems? Take for an example the task of producing a schedule for a large scale project, where the previous method is to have a meeting of the principles and then create a Microsoft project (or something like that). Would you have to design a game interface just for the task? Cheers!
  • If Eddie Izzard worked at Square Enix: "How stupid do I think the gamers are? They'll pay money to navigate menus. We'll tell them it's from Japan."
  • by Mandrel (765308)

    What's the most popular form of gaming? Gambling.

    What's the best motiivator? Money.

    Same thing.

    Status pales.

  • Fucking dumb. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @07:18AM (#35676712) Homepage

    I live in the real world, I may choose to work in IT but I am not a stereotypical nerd/geek and I also have ZERO interest in bullshit like this. I don't want fucking achievements and "points" or other inane things, I want to be treated as a professional and I want to do my job. That is already almost impossible in IT as it is never given respect and seen as purely a cost/drain as it is. If any company I would work for would implement something like this, I would resign instantly.

    • I don't want fucking achievements and "points" or other inane things

      I love the irony that this post is modded up. Slashdot's karma system feels just as much like a game to me as any multiplayer game with achievements and points.

      • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

        If it's any consolation, I couldn't care less about that either. :)

        You know that this kind of thing in the typical management hands is going to become a nightmare in a "fun" wrapper. I'm not a mouse running a maze to get a little nibble of cheese for a right move. The average IT/IS type is so concerned with ego and showing off their knowledge that we are so easily manipulated as it is, it's why we are where we are now. So many do the overpromise, overly optimistic deadlines, etc. and then suffer time and ti

  • I'm glad that the original post presented both sides of the argument because the truth is that no one really knows whether gamification of anything is a good idea....yet.

    My own research is in education where scientists have been looking at how games can teach and motivate since at least 1987 (I'm talking about research and not educational games which go further back). Classically the debate has always been two fold:
    1. Can anyone prove that knowledge transfers from a game to another setting?
    2. Can game
  • by lymond01 (314120)

    Funny, my boss and I were just discussing merit based review. At her last position you would get points for being able to do a certain level of task and points for completing tasks. Of course I immediately equate this to experience points:

    1) Java Programmer: Level 6.
    2) .NET Programmer: Level 5
    3) PHP programmer: Level 3
    4) write an application to inventory computers into an SQL-based database: 300 xp
    5) script a website that allows for a single header across multiple pages: 25 xp

    So there is less distance bet

    • by hitmark (640295)

      learning the ancient language of cobol to battle the metal demon of the holy chamber: master of the known universe.

  • Interesting idea aside, its a bit like discussing Tomato crop yields when you find your pizza sauce bland. Sure, what tomatoes go into pizza sauce make a difference, but if its just shitty sauce its not really going to matter if you add some nice tomatoes to it.

    If employers think embracing Gamification will fix an endemically lousy work environment...well, its probably why the work environment is so bad in the first place.

    dimes

  • I just finished reading Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonagall. It had very similar ideas. She tied together some really interesting concepts about personal engagement and flow experiences (when we're at our most productive and self-forgetful). Flow happens when certain conditions are met: we're getting realtime feedback, we're right at the threshold of our own skill levels (being neither bored nor overwhelmed), we believe we can win, etc. This is co
  • I just bought a hybrid car. When I drive, it shows me my current MPG, and when I get to my destination, it shows me the MPG for the trip. If I get over 35 MPG, I get a little "Excellent!" message that flashes.

    It's not much, but I'm surprised at the effect this has had on my driving. I notice myself driving differently when I have this feedback.

    Now imagine we all had cars that published (tweeted, for example) our total MPG, and some sort of public leaderboard/ranking system. I think that alone would chan

    • by mekkab (133181)

      Me, too! It's a very tight feed-back loop with near-immediate rewards.

      To give you a non-video game equivalent of a tight feedback loop: jogging with my dogs. Running sucks. But when I look down and see my boys with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out having a great time, it makes me want to run faster.

  • After reading the article, I found nothing new that I hadn't already learned by reading the books and papers already out by other authors like Edward Castronova and Nick Yee. I wish someone would focus less on explaining the what the concept is about and more on some actual case studies instead. In theory it sounds interesting, but who is getting it to work and what did they do?

  • I believe the "scholarly" term they're looking for is captology, the study of persuasive technology. [stanford.edu]

    This is all just recruiting the lower parts of the brain that B.F. Skinner studied. Pull-lever-get-food-pellet type of stuff. No play involved, really.
  • Just leveled up my java skill doing some web programming here. Now i'll grind "big files" to improve my perl pet and sell the loot to apple store.

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