Friday, May 6, 2011

The Name Game

After reading this article by Ian Bogost I thought I might as well redefine my relationship with the word gamification.

The word is currently a bit fuzzy. For some or most people, it seems to mean applying only the easy stuff from games to other contexts. Namely: scores, leaderboards, achievements and rewards. Some people on the other hand like to lump all use of game design for other contexts under the same term. This is bound to create some confusion, especially since there are a lot of people who think gamification (the shallow one) is evil. I think that too. In my earlier post when I defended gamification, I did so in the larger meaning of the word. Now I'm thinking I should abandon the word as well.

The problem with (exploitative) gamification is that it will give more beneficial efforts a bad name. It does not seem very fair to group together something repulsive like frequent flyer points and, say, Sparked. The latter is aimed for a really beneficial cause, the former is aimed for suckering people into flying more. Nope, not really appropriate. Their abundant use of scores etc. can also weaken their usefulness over time. It might be cool for a while, but I cannot help thinking how quickly it gets really tired. We need good game design to survive that.

In my papers and talks, I have been and will be careful not to call my work gamification. I have not yet decided on a really good name, but at the moment I like to call it "game designing activities" or "game designed activities". For one it's a fairly descriptive title. I also don't want to use anyone else's term at the moment because there is no consensus whatsoever. I don't want to pick sides, so I'll just use my own definition for the time being. Once the community agrees upon a name, then I can start using it. Whether it's going to be gamification after all or something else, as long as it's definition fits my work I can use that.

So in the future when I'm talking about gamification on this blog, you should assume I'm talking about the evil, shallow, exploitative marketing trend. If I'm using some other term, then I'm probably talking about the good stuff. So, just FYI.

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