While gamification translates as employing “game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems” (see the 1st hyperlink below), in fields previously characterized by a non-game structures and an overall seriousness, this trend is catching on in the tech world, as well as in education and business.
The gamification hype
“If it’s games they like, let’s give them games” – this seems to be the motto guiding the adoption of game-like structures in various fields. Of course, learning through play it’s a century old truth. But the yesteryear play that allowed youngsters to mimic life and thus enhance and exercise their skills was a full three-dimensional type of exercise. Nowadays we play games that put our imagination within different type of boundaries, whilst greatly remaining different from the reality in which we breathe, live and interact. Furthermore, the gamification that’s been imported into the workplace, education, training or business operations is derived from video games, since this might well be the singular trigger for interest when dealing with the digital generation.
The gamification hype doesn’t ask questions – businesses adopt and employ gamification because it’s trendy and because it delivers short-term results. Once the recipients of gamified products and programs respond to this approach, the psychological downsizes to this process seem to concern almost no one.
Games teach us something, but there is a price
Of course, there is a wide variety of games, even inside the video game genre. Strategy, fight, survival, creative, click and play, open world and so on, each subgenre implies a different set of rules and develops certain skills and thinking abilities.
There are learning games and there are escapist games. The truth nobody wants to hear is that all games are escapist – we turn our back to immediate reality and immerse ourselves as players in a fantasy world where we live the illusion of our actions being constructive or important. To a certain extent, they are. Games perpetuate a cause and effect dynamic that is not always met by reality, and many players do not concern themselves with the difference between a regulated, enclosed environment and the vastness of reality, nor with the difference of rhythm between a video game and life, where often the slow pace and the effort beneath each action predominate.
Games and gamified processes teach us what they have been destined to teach us. They deliver a simplified, clear experience that stands in opposition with the chaotic way life unravels. Many a time those who have played more games that lived challenging life situations find it hard to process complex situations. The tendency to simplify things and reduce multi-layered situations to their closes flat counterpart does come out of being too familiar with game-based dynamics.
As studies have noted, games perpetuate the winner philosophy – the learning value of failing lacks or is strongly neglected, and thus they promote a distorted perception of the world.
Are we strong enough to remember the rules of the biggest game of all?
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll “life, what is it but a game?” While it may surely be considered so, the rules of this game are partly mysterious and (fortunately) yet elusive. We may wish to simply it all, and make it all more understandable – but it hardly works this way.
Gamification highly serves the technology hype, as well as humanity’s dreams of automation and robotics. Any device stands the possibility of being programmed to understand the rules of a game and apply these rules in order to win. We are already making the first steps to introduce gamification in talent assessment, in education, and companies enthrall their employees by bringing games into the workplace.
We are thus encouraged to remain or to become again kids, eager to express ourselves, to have fun, to go for the immediate advantage.
To go back to literature, perhaps it would be useful to read or re-read Lord of the Flies – in a world of kids, who will be humane, kind and wise?
The biggest game of all has different rules, and it still awaits for us to be adults, mature and to have gained the degree of understanding and knowledge to be able to play it. In life, true victory is a victory for many, not just for one. Winning means turning your opponents around, perhaps changing our own position to meet in the middle. Finding out our purpose, communicating, sharing, feeling that we still have a soul – such are the victories of this intense, dynamic, trying and challenging “game”.
Meanwhile, in Gamelandia…
The online news is topped by game-related news, such as the one about the French start-up Blade bringing their cloud game service to the U.S, or the Mad Catz manufacturers resurfacing soon at CES 2018. Millions hold their breath when reading about their favorite video game latest addition, version or release, in a disproportionate effusion of sentiments.
As an old-fashioned teacher would say “first do your chores, then play”. But at a global level our chores are long forgotten, while our play comes first, or at least its two-dimensional or three-dimensional replica does.