Experts Split on Future of Gamification; Knight Studies Social Impact Games; Explaining Privilege via Role Playing Games
5.20.12 | The Future of Gamification: Technology experts and stakeholders asked to weigh in on the future of gamification are split on the extent to which game elements will continue to infiltrate online work and play.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University recruited 1,021 people via email invitation, Twitter or Facebook to address the question: “Will the use of gamification, game mechanics, feedback loops, and rewards to spur interaction and boost engagement, buy-in, loyalty, fun, and/or learning continue to gain ground and be implemented in many new ways in people’s digital lives between now and 2020?”
Slightly more than half (53 percent) said gamification will be widespread, “but a number of them qualified this by saying the evolving adoption of gamification will continue to have some limits,” according to the survey, while 42 percent “chose a more modest scenario that predicted gamification will not evolve to be a larger trend except in specific realms.” View the full report (pdf).
“In addition to their uses for crowd-sourcing solutions, game-style approaches are expected to continue to make inroads in training, personal health, business and education,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, said in a press release. “The experts point out that game mechanics offer advantages in encouraging specific behavior and generating measureable feedback.”
Below is a sampling of responses that appear in the “Future of Gamification” overview:
“The US military has been one of the largest developers and users of videogaming and simulation for training. Companies have developed more than just flight simulators for learning. The Disney’s, EAS’s, and others are, or will be, seeing more commercial opportunity to create better products for multiple subjects at multiple grade levels. To me, it is just a matter of time before public schools purchase and partner to use these tools, or get replaced in a vouchered world brought about by these companies wanting into the market and being big enough to counteract the political power of school unions and the boards they control.”
– Ed Lyell, professor at Adams State College
“It’s a modern-day form of manipulation. And like all cognitive manipulation, it can help people and it can hurt people. And we will see both.”
– danah boyd, researcher, Microsoft and Harvard’s Berkman Center
“For all of the reasons that critics of game theory have identified over the years regarding its inability to capture the full range of human motivations, perceptions, cognitions, and practices, I believe there will be efforts to gamify much of what we do, but that much of that will just come and go as fads.”
– Sandra Braman, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an expert on information policy.
“I’m all for feedback loops in our complex world. Emergence is how everything works. But for some reason, I’m resisting their explicit disruptive role in education and health. There are too many entrenched reasons (some of them good reasons) not to run things this way. If everything was a game, no one would have a reason to invent; any metric corrupts, as people shape their behavior to ensure that they come out on top. There have to be other routes to excellence in work, health, and education; there have to be ways to explore, invent, create, and avoid—it can’t be that we’ll be adding up points for every salient element of our lives…. Excuse me, now, while I check whether I’ve been mentioned on Twitter.”
– Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay and former Obama White House technology policy expert
Playing for Real: Knight Foundation has published an interesting report—“Social Impact Games: Do They Work?”—that evaluates the results of two games Knight funded as pilot projects in 2010.
Both games were designed by Area/Code to support efforts addressing local issues. “Battlestorm,” played in Biloxi, Miss., promotes hurricane preparedness through activities focused on youth as leaders. “Macon Money,” played in Macon, Ga., aims to build social connections between Mercer University students and local residents while catalyzing economic development. The games took place in real time, with real people (no consoles or avatars involved).
Knight brought on Cause Communications and Network Impact to evaluate the results, and readers will find much to review, including data visualizations of “Macon Money” that show game activity over time and the economic impact and social connections created as a result. The evaluation brochure (pdf) provides a good overview, including “things that didn’t work as well as we hoped,” and advice on what to consider when funding social impact games.
Speaking of Social Impact: Gaming recently provided writer John Scalzi with a remarkably effective metaphor for explaining how the world works for straight white men (without using the word “privilege”):
Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
Continue reading Scalzi’s insightful post, which garnered 800 comments in a day and sparked this equally good follow-up. Scalzi also spoke with Colorlines about nerd culture, science fiction, and his motivation for writing “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.”
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