Part 1: A Basic Introduction or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Understand Gamification
It could be said that our brains are wired for competition and games. And adding gaming elements into everyday life has always seemed normal in human nature and has brought us to where we are today. We give children stickers and small trinkets to praise them for succeeding and behaving. We accumulate loyalty rewards on pieces of plastic or paper to thank us for spending our money at our local coffee shops. In Ontario, we gain demerit points when we get caught driving badly and get pulled over by the cops.
As much as people would rather it not be the case, gamification — the concept of joining game mechanics, game design techniques, and game style into everyday life to solve problems and engage audiences — is thoroughly ingrained into our culture and what some could almost state is a driving force for our modern society and economy.
Consider frequent flyer points. If you had a choice between two companies, would you choose the one that offers these points over the other? Most people would. And do.
And because of this mechanic, you become loyal to this specific company and accumulate enough loyalty points to place towards a discounted next flight. You feel like you have accomplished something when you exchange these points for a cheaper flight. And that is gamification in action.
In reality, these points have no monetary value, yet people become obsessed over accumulating as many of these loyalty points as possible. It pushes us to spend money and makes us feel good (or at least feel less guilty) about it. And it annoys us when we get left out from getting more points. We feel cheated and that only pushes us to ensure we acquire those points the next time we go back to spend more money.
But gamification is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, the Orwellian ideas of Big Brother and companies abusing the ideas of gamification to spend our money and push their products is possible, the concepts of gamification can be used to encourage and promote cooperation between our peers, push us to be healthier and fitter, and for us to engage (and support) a stronger society.
The idea of rewarding someone for voting in an election or participating in jury duty would benefit everyone and get people engaged and to push people to be more involved in the workings of our governments. Programs that give citizens points for participating in healthy activities such as eating better, using public transit, and walking and biking to school or work would result in a healthier health care system and relieve the stress of unhealthy lifestyles has upon that infrastructure. A system that rewards students for excelling in school and getting good grades with discounted or free post-secondary education could bring on a new renaissance of advancements with new experts coming out of colleges and universities.
As you can see, it’s not all bad.
– Christopher Holmes –