Reading: Gamify Everything!

Read/watch these 3 contributions:

Contribution to a Situationist Definition of Play – Guy Debord

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world – TED talk

Gamification and Governmentality (Page 5) – Niklas Schrape

And write a short response as a comment below here. Some starting points:

  • What large scale changes happened since the 1958 Situationist text, and how did they affect the notions of play and work?
  • Do you recognize in you or your gamer friends the skills Jane McGonigal talks about, the things that gamers are getting good at? Is her talk a provocation or part of a trend some critics refer as solutionism?
  • Can you imagine gamification projects that could push the “libertarian paternalism” described in the 3rd essay to the extreme?
  1. Current social climates have warmed up to play. Games are not as widely seen as impediments to productivity anymore, especially with the success of the game industry, gaming and play is now a massive stream of revenue and economic force. Immersive games that are time sinks for players (games like The Elder Scrolls) are much more prevalent now as well, and are no longer exclusively table top experiences in which players have to find a community to play with. The community is given to them online, there’s no searching required. In this way, I think that the fleeting nature of play that the Situationist text describes has partially dissolved from our society.

    I feel no connection with McGonigal’s theory that gamers can collectively save the world. People play games for myriad reasons. Who is a game designer or an oligarchy of game designers to say what a player should learn from their experience with the game? That experience is up to the gamer; I don’t want to be taught what you think I should know. If I learn something from your piece, I will learn it through my experience. The oil shortage game is a culprit of this gross evangelism.

    Liberal paternalism is a quieter, scarier version of preachy game application. If a government decided a particular ethnic minority was the cause of economic ruin, then the government could incentivize the majority of its subjects to round up members of the minority and reward them with social/military status and a feeling of cultural superiority. All of this would be done under the guise that the government was doing what it “thought was best” for all of its subjects, including the minorities (Oh, wait, this already happened.)

  2. Out of the three viewpoints we’ve seen that talks about gamification and its impact on life, I prefer the TED talk given by Jane McGonigal more than the other two; In her viewpoint, gamification seems to have a more positive, hopeful, and desirable influence over our future. However, when is a TED talk not inspiring? The other two readings which were dubious about applying gaming strategies to real life paint a more solid picture of what affect gaming may have on our future. The biggest thing that united all the readings however, was the overarching assumption that gaming is on the rise to affecting our every day lives. McGonigal explains it well with the illustrative example she included about the Ancient Lidian culture and also by citing some impressive statistics about how we have a generation of genius gamers. When we approach it from that mindset it makes sense that this generation of geniuses are capable of rebuilding the future.

    However, I can understand some of the other concerns raised by the other readings, especially Niklas Schrape’s essay which questioned the role of government in a ‘gamer society’. However, the type of games he was thinking about, I feel, was on a virtual platform or on an internet-based platform; he talks about a ramified society as if we will spend our days consciously aware of a game and always participating in it. However, McGonigal’s approach feels incomplete since she does not choose extremes; She cites a society that survived with game to prove her point, but I do not actually feel that she wants us to immerse ourselves in games; it seemed more like she wanted to pull concepts from games into the ‘real’ world to see how these concepts can help existing problems. Although she tells her audience to play games more, she actually wants them to develop a set of skills which she feels is beneficial to society. In the end it comes down to finding a common definition for a ramified society. Is it app driven? Does it simply use the same principles from games? Is it driven with a need to ‘win’ or a need to help the world?

  3. My takeaway from the article was that winning or even just playing isn’t enough; that we must have more “at stake” when we play in order to add meaning. This made me wonder if this idea is forced upon us by society, or if we have moved to achieve this ideal due to missing a competitive aspect elsewhere in our lives. I think the most significant change that occurred since 1958 is the introduction of technology to increase productivity in different realms so that spare time is not a marker of laziness (or wealth) but is instead something everyone gets, on a daily basis. Now that play can coexist with productivity without detracting from it, we play more and we realize the value in play. Bring a “playful” attitude to an experience is a good thing.

    I have to say I didn’t really vibe with McGonigal’s talk. I don’t know if I have “gamer” friends, at least not any that have described themselves as such to me so perhaps I’m simply not exposed to these things, but I wasn’t convinced that playing games is the way to change the world. I totally get that games excel as teaching mechanisms and I think that McGonigal’s 3 games prove that. However, she seems to skimp on hard data on how these players are generalizing what they learn in games to the real world. It seems that gamers need to think a little bigger, outside of games. As an athlete, my games are a bit different than WoW, but I don’t play to have epic wins. I’m not an olympian, and I’m far from the best player in my league. I play to challenge myself, to recognize my limits, to push myself all the way to the edge, and to experience some humility. On weeks when I get to really play for a few hours, I am able to have a fresher outlook on my “real” work, and this is where the value of play happens for me. Sure, it’s fun to play, but I do it because of the positive effects it has on my experiences outside of play. We may be limiting our imagination about problem solving by keeping our solutions within games. I found McGonigal’s talk especially interesting after the first article, as it seems like she’s trying to get more out of games than just play. Why can’t we just play to play? Why do games have to mean or achieve more?
    This “nudge unit” perfectly describes what I study and find intriguing about behavioral economics. It’s always exciting when you’re learning about something powerful, but always a bit scary too. One of the professors I worked with would start his marketing lectures with the MBA students by making them swear that they would use what they learned for good and not for evil. Behavioral economics, the “nudge”, these are tools. And good tools work well. Tools can also fall into the wrong hands. A chainsaw could help someone singlehandedly take down a tree to collect firewood or it could create an unfortunate massacre in Texas. I can think of a time in our family when we used the nudge. My little sister had a tendency to stretch the truth, so my mother instructed the rest of the family to stop paying attention to her the moment we suspected she was lying. This resulted in less lies, but also felt a bit like we were exposing my sister to something akin to the Truman Show, where her actions appeared to be within her control but in reality were not. We were “playing” her.

  4. Certainly when the Situationist text was written in 1958 the means of play were a lot more limited than what exists today. During that time the games that existed were mostly in the form of card or board games designed with the intention of having at least two players. For that reason games were more competitive activities–which is probably what led Debord to believe that “play cannot be completely emancipated from a competitive aspect”. In the present, due to the wider range of gaming tools (such as consoles) and existence of tools such as game AIs, people are able to play games by themselves without competing directly with other people. Games that lacked the win/lose mechanic (‘simulation’ games) were also developed in recent years. But does that make people who play these games ’emancipated’ from competition? That may not even be the case as competition can manifest itself in certain ways, e.g. high scores, leaderboards, etc.

    In her talk McGonigal mentions four main qualities common to (online) gamers: urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity, and epic meaning. While I am not an online gamer myself, I can certainly see these characteristics exhibit themselves whenever I watch my friends or other people play online games. For example, there is a level of kinship between my friends who play a certain MMORPG which ties in with the ‘social fabric’ aspect of gamer characteristics, and even when faced with a challenging in-game task they always appear to be ‘blissfully productive’. But I think the most important trait McGonigal mentions is ‘blissful productivity’ because it is the characteristic that incentivizes gamers to take up even the most difficult challenges. This ties in with what McGonigal states at the beginning of her talk: how games turn people into the ‘best version of [them]selves’ because they drive gamers to stick with a problem until they have solved it. At the same time ‘blissful productivity’ is not something that can persist in every game, as when gamers are faced with repetitive tasks such as leveling up or upgrading productivity becomes more tedious than blissful.

    McGonigal’s talk does verge on solutionism to some extent, and her statements that more gaming would solve problems like world hunger and obesity sound more like exaggerations. Although she is able to cite how the people in Lydia were able to use games to survive famine, this single example is not enough to justify how games are the solution to changing the world. While games can be used to ‘train’ people to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances, they are not perfect replicas of reality and cannot be relied upon to solve real-life problems.

    When one of my friends was younger his father would have him memorize multiplication tables. Once he had them memorized his father would play checkers with him, and make moves in a way that would cause his son to win. This gave my friend the impression that studying made him a smarter and more logical, and it was because of his father’s ‘gamification’ of studying that made him enjoy it. In a sense, this is an example of gamification that pushes “libertarian paternalism” to the extreme, because when his father would intentionally lose the checkers game, my friend was under the impression that studying allowed him to make better choices–when in fact his choices were deterministic because his father was playing to lose.

  5. Since 1958, more examples of playing that does not involve direct competition with actual people emerged in the form of single player games. They can still lead to indirect competitions though, such as speed runs or achievements. But I would say the main incentive for most players to play those games is to experience, rather than to compete.

    I feel Jane McGonigal made some valid points, but they are a bit stretched, so I have my doubts. My friend who is able to grind for days in games does exhibit the same dexterity when doing homework, but whether that is nurtured by gameplay is debatable.

    Gamifying religion seems like a possibility. It can be implemented by earning karma points through good deeds, and giving rewards in the form of promises in the afterlife.

  6. The Situationalists text went a bit over my head. As Ticha pointed out earlier, the text was made some time ago and, therefore, the concept of ‘game’ described in the text differs a lot from out concept of games.The text claimed “The element of competition must disappear in favor of a more authentically collective concept of play” but this seams a bit like the ‘moral’ games that we were talking about earlier. Like the snakes and ladders game that taught kids how to behave properly. I would say that a fair amount of competition is pretty good in a game. Even during the TED talk, McGonigal talked about how the competitiveness of a game doesn’t really affect the way you bond with a person after playing a game with them. Moreover, I think competitiveness as well as cooperation is a large part of what most games are about and a large part of why they work. Soccer or basketball, for instance, depend hugely on competition and cooperation with your team and the opposing team. The situationalists’ text seems to simply want to make games about teaching ‘ethics’ rather than teaching real-world problem-solving skills like what McGonigal was talking about.

    Moving on, the TED was interesting. I agreed with many of McGonigals views concerning using the immersive quality of gameplay to teach positive real-world problem-solving skills. Moreover, when she talked about the game world vs. the real world at the beginning, I was truly surprised. because of how right she was (or at least how well it described my gaming experience). She said, and I agree wholeheartedly, that in games, players feel like they can achieve the goal and are willing to try to the fullest and usually make the goal. She said that there is always something for you to do no matter how unskilled or low-level you are, and that the game will push you and bring out the best in you. However, there were some things I’m still not sure about. She introduced a very high number for the amount of games we should be playing in the start of her lecture but never went back to address the number. Sure, games can teach valuable skills. But how valuable are these skills in the real world? Valuable enough to forsake work to play games? Valuable enough to be included in our education system in place of learning from textbooks? How does learning from games compare to learning from textbooks? I rally liked the talk but there is so many more things she could have said to be more convincing. Or, better yet, she shouldn’t have introduced such a high number (it kind of brought down her credibility for me) until she had the talk time to address the number properly.

    Finally, the last reading seemed interesting. The idea of positive and negative reinforcement id kind of the big drawing factor in our society. We have positive reinforcement for things like education and negative for things like burglary. However, I can’t help thinking about the idea we were talking about in class that positive reinforcement may not be the best way to get someone to learn.

  7. Since the 1958 Situationist text was published, quite a lot has changed in the world of work and play. As the text mentions, “factories”, manufacturing, and industrialism were much bigger in the US and UK. In the 1950’s we were a much more industrial economy, characterized by unskilled labor, and producing quantity was the goal, and physical objects were the currency. Productivity was easy to quantify, and was everything. Today, we’re a knowledge and information economy: many more jobs are based on problem solving, which requires creativity, which arises out of a playful mindset. In addition, people have more free time these days (weekends and 9-5 were benefits workers worked hard to get!). For these reasons, I think playfulness has become more mainstream.

    Next, in the TED talk, McGonigal makes a good case: if only people could go after real life problems like they go after game problems. I agree: when people play (well-designed) games, they are more focused, more likely to keep going when problems arise, and etc. However, I would argue that it’s not that gamers are better at problem solving in order to “beat games”, but that games are designed to be “beaten”. Games are an idealization: just like how in most fiction, no matter how bad things seem, you can probably always count on “the good guys” winning. There are numerous differences: 1) in a game, there is always a path to winning; in real life some things are impossible 2) in a game, there’s a nice learning curve, where each step is just a little further than the next — reality has no such obligation, 3) in a game, there is usually a single, clear objective (with sub- objectives), whereas in real life, there may be many objectives, oftentimes conflicting with each other, you’ll never be sure which are right, and probably spend time pursuing the wrong ones, and they’ll change over time 4) you can’t “play again” in real life, and there’s much more to lose than in games. It’s easy to be “most likely to help” when your only choices are “help” or “not progress in the game”, and you have no other priorities, and etc. In this sense, McGonigal seems to be advocating “solutionism”, since games do not actually solve these issues — they don’t have to deal with them, and bringing them into real life would mean making arbitrary choices as to what is right. That being said, I think it might work, in that for many problems, we’re sure what we want to do and how to do them, but the learning curve needs help.

    Pushing “libertarian paternalism” to the extreme, make supermarkets put junk food far apart, and in the back section of the store, in dark, dirty, and unlit aisles. Rename (and unworthy, and distractify, and etc.) to random 256-digit hexadecimal strings, and block browsers from copying-pasting it or saving it, or opening links to it, so you have to type it every time, to stop people from wasting time. Have employees monitor their sleep with a camera, and give people reminders to go to sleep early to get enough sleep every night, then give them points and achievements for “streaks” and such.

  8. Since the Situationist text, leisure time has definitely become more common, allowing more opportunities for the definition of play to flex. We don’t have to think about play solely in terms of its contributions to productivity anymore, and we certainly don’t have to limit play to certain contexts. The notion of playing for spontaneity’s sake has become more widely accepted and has seeped into our everyday lives.

    I didn’t believe Jane McGonigal at all. Her numbers were like bizarre, sweeping generalizations and her opening spiel was less about the potential of games but the amazing breed of humans known as gamers. Sure, I guess my gamer friends are improving the skills she was talking about, but the fact that they only improve those skills in the game gives me no real idea of how they are improving in our personal interactions. She talks about harnessing this potential, but her speech and her weird games made it seem like her vision was a bit of a stretch.

    From what I understood about libertarian paternalism, I can only think of how the government provides its citizens with a structure of choices. Most of the time this imposed structure hides the limitations of the choices pretty well. If libertarian paternalism found its way into all modes of institutional design, human life would be pretty deterministic.

  9. One of the things that came to my mind when reading the Situationist text was Twitch or rather, the culture of “watching games,” not playing games directly, that rose drastically with the Internet. Games become “work” for gamers who make money off streaming games and making videos of games, and the act of watching becomes play for the viewers. Another thing was while the Situationist text (if I read it correctly) encouraged competition must disappear when play and real life are mixed, the current “gamified” systems often have competition as their main motivator (“you see your friend who has more stuff than you? get more stuff!”). “Play cannot be completely emancipated from a competitive aspect”–when combining it with real life, I guess so. Intrinsic motivation is hard to achieve.

    I play a lot of both online games and offline games, and I can say that in both cases, there are “epic win” moments but also incredible cynical moments. The moments where gamers become toxic, salty, etc. because things don’t go in their favor. They end up blaming the game and others, and in some ways, the game makes them a worse person in that moment. I have friends on both sides; not all gamers are like what she said. In fact, she only seemed to observe players from an MMORPG (World of Warcraft) which is frankly just one genre that certain gamers play. To generalize every gamer as an MMORPG player is a fatal mistake. What she is talking about is just another form of social engineering that may or may not work because not everyone has played an MMORPG for all of his/her life.

    Aren’t public schools just a pathetic attempt at libertarian paternalism? They try to make students see that they have a “””””choice””””” but essentially students are just being manipulated to keep going to school and “””””choose””””” what’s best for them. A more extreme one I guess would be exactly that except more gamified (points, win/lose, more trophies!).

  10. For some reason, I’d never thought of big data + gamification = government potential. It seems like such a clear line to be drawn, and one who’s dots are already in place. Systems and structures are already becoming increasingly gamified and to sound like a broken record, there’s an Extra Credits about this topic as well (3 part series: Using the principals of game design to create proper incentive systems rather than the old dilapidated ones we have today only makes sense.

    Paternal Liberalism, that’s a scary combination of words. This is precisely what video games do so well, presenting you with the illusion of choice. This was the concept that you design the presentation of choices using some paternal instinct, some mother-knows-best outlook where mother is big government, and present the best options as the ones that statistically people are most likely to pick. In general, this seems like a good idea when in a Utopia. But in a real world with government corruption, I only can imagine corporations jumping in with their input on which brand of choice is the best brand of choice for people out their to be parentally nudged toward. When these psychological designs become invisible, and choice is made for us by others, it’s scary to realize who the others will be, considering there is no way in hell those choices will actually be made without bias.

    Games can change the world and offer people a space to try things out, fail, commit fully to something stupid and learn from what you’ve done, and even make choices that have weight and consequence, but many end there for good reason. Games are something you can step away from, you can leave the magic circle. When the magic circle is drawn around your government, your company, your lifestyle, how can you step away from the consequence, how can you compare it to another game and create your own reality between games? When these structures become the reality, there is no game, just incentive systems, rules, regulations, authorial intent in choice design, and consequences.

  11. After reading Gamification and Governmentality, I am more conflicted about Gameification than I used to be. It’s always seemed to be mostly shallow, largely ineffective, and overall harmless. In reading this article, though, three important points emerged:
    1. gamification can be extremely manipulative
    2. the manipulation is not necessarily negative and can be used for positive applications
    3. Special attention needs to be paid to teaching the “why” behind the actions that are reinforced through gamification.

    I think that thus far our gamification efforts have been largely superficial; once the incentive of filling a bar has been taken away, the player is unlikely to continue the intended patterns, or even to fully internalize the purpose of filling that bar. The next step I think is to find a way to wean the player off of the game while still continuing the behavior that it intends to instill. Jane McGonigal’s talk touches on the useful applications for games, but I think that only when people keep up the mentality that the game is encouraging after they stop playing will the situations presented be more permanently improved.

  12. Well, the 60s happened where many happenings occurred – which were not about competition, but could be described as ludic ambience. Perhaps they would of also approves of “Larping”, which is also a form of game entering real life. But those example are perhaps me reading too into much into “ambiences” as a being environmental and experiential. Perhaps the bigger take away is about games in life temporarily bringing “perfection”. What I take away from this is imposing a karmic system where there isn’t one naturally: good deeds will be rewarded bad ones punished, which rarely actually occurs.

    The rise of personal computers as cites for both play and work is a large change since 1958. That certainly results in more slippage between work and play – otherwise known as distraction. (aka being on Facebook at work).

    McGonical says that gamers are good at optimism, social, and epic narrative. While I appreciate her can-do attitude, I’d say a more accurate statement is that gamers are conditioned and proven to react strongly too those conditions. I think it goes a bit too far to say that these are skills. I’d say the credit of the gamers achievements go way more to the game designers who make perfectly packaged tasks that give everyone a sense of meaning. I certainly know gamers that display optimism and strong problem solving abilities, but I don’t know enough to form any grounded opinions. I actually found this TED talk about how gaming effects the brain to be far more informative about the skills gained by gaming:

    There is existing research on how to design choices to get more people to choose to donate their organs. In this talk by Dan Ariely he describes the phycology behind it:
    This talk about gamifying health care also suggests a future where our fitbit score might actually effect our health care premiums:
    I also heard a story on NPR about how a marketing director at Coca Cola is trying to find a way to make carrots exciting:

    Organ donation, health care pricing, and kids eating healthily are already pretty extreme cases in my book. If choice architecture was taken further in organ donation things could get very sick, very fast.

  13. While I find the possibilities of gamifying government and life in general quite intriguing, I am not sure if it will ever be feasible due to how people view games. McGonigal admitted herself that even the younger generations view games as a separate entity and that they are not comparable to life.

    So while an idea like instead of arguments and evidence, legal disputes were decided by the outcome of a game is fascinating to think about, people would never feel comfortable letting something with such huge ramifications be determined by the outcomes of a game.

    Just for fun heres is an idea for that game:
    The defendant and plaintiff play the same game while the jury watches. The defendant and plaintiff are told that they will be put in a room with the other party and that they must use whichever items they pick. Items are put out one by one. There are 4 items in total (gun with single bullet, gun magazine, knife, slip of paper with information), they are put down in that order and the parties do not know what objects are available ahead of time. Each person gets to choose 2 items total. Once an item has passed the person cannot go back and select that item. Meaning that if they hold off until the end, the person gets the knife and paper.

    The defendant and plaintiff now walk into a room at the same time with their items. The items must be used before either can leave. That means if they have a gun the bullet/s must be fired. If they have a knife it must be stabbed into something. If they have a gun magazine, all the bullets must be out of it.

    Either side can be charged with a crime if the jury is unanimous. The jury watches how the people act and what they choose and make judgements based off of that instead of evidence and testimony.

    This also allows for “street justice”. A man raped and killed a father’s only daughter. The father chooses the gun and magazine and then can attempt to get revenge in the room. If he succeeds, its now up to the jury to decide how the father should be tried. Did he do the justice they were going to dole out anyways? Do you think the man was framed by the father? The experience in the room can range from a friendly debate to a video game style deathmatch.

  14. On Debord
    — It’s interesting to think about what divides the “fictional” status of worlds of play from the real… and where those lines start to break down. I can’t say that I’ve really played a game that pushes on the boundaries of the real in such a way… there is always a fictitious element powering the proceedings. I could imagine a game that in some ways requires the players to use their real information – therefor increasing the stakes to a level outside of pure play. I wonder if e-sports are getting us there…

    On McGonigal
    — Humans spend nearly 70,000 Years on the toilet every day. All we need to do is translate that time spent on the toilet into WORLD CHANGING ACTIVITY and we’ll CHANGE THE WORLD!

    On Schrape
    — It’s very “teenage existentialist” to be all like “society is a big game and we’re all the losers!”, but yeah, that’s sort of the gist of it. I think most of us, whether we admit it or not, recognize the “fictional” rules and situations that govern their daily activities, and in some ways, it has to create tension… but… it’s the thing that’s worked the longest, so the tension it creates is proportionally less than previous societal systems.

    The game smooths out life’s bumps. But it only does so for a very small percentage of people. The rest of us are straight fucked, hoping to pull the “get out of jail free” card from the community chest.

    The sad thing is that, again, this is the best it’s ever been. The rules are the game aren’t permanent. They continue to change. And things continue to improve. Theoretically, there is a tipping point that causes the game to break when too many people start winning. I guess the idea is we push society as close to that line as possible.

  15. Since the 1958 Situationist text, play has grown exponentially, due to the rise of video games,the internet, and portable devices such as smartphones. Play has become an accepted part of everyday life which most
    people participate in in one form or the other, and there are more types of games and playful activities to participate in now then there were in 1958. Additionally, Debord writes that play has “a marginal existence in relation to the oppressive reality of work” and that is pretty untrue for today’s society. Sure we still work a lot, but we’re also constantly playing. Play has almost a greater meaning in our day-to-day lives than work now.

    I do recognize the skills that McGonigal talks about in online game players, myself included. One thing I think is interesting about my personal experiences with League, is that the “epic meaning” derived from the game is based on the overall experience of playing the game, not in playing the game itself. What I mean by this, is in the long run, it doesn’t really matter to me personally whether I won or lost a particular game, because so many games are played and they all have the same objective (destroying the enemy’s nexus). What gives League of Legends its “epic meaning” is playing ranked and increasing your rank. Rank is determined by your overall performance in games. So, the “epic meaning” of League is a statistic which is somewhat removed from any particular instance of playing the game, not some sort of quest based on an in-game storyline. This removed statistic has the potential to have more meaning to a player than in-game experiences. This kind of mechanic could be applied to the more “real-world affecting” game systems that MgGonigal encourages. It’s not impossible to imagine that there could exist some sort of game with some sort of statistic like “rank” in League, except this outside overall statistic actually holds some sort of meaning and places some sort of affect in the real world.

    I found the last article to be kind of disturbing. It describes how the government could monitor everyone’s behavior and implement gamification techniques like rewarding people for their good behavior to encourage good behavior and maintain a healthy, productive, society. While, as the article mentions, there’s a paradox in that in order to secure freedom you have to implement regulations, I think this is taking it a step too far. Additionally, the line that says “people do not have to be illuminated but simply regulated by points and badges in order to make them fitter, happier, and more productive.” is very disturbing to think about. This means that people would no longer care about what they’re doing except to gain “points” which don’t even mean anything substantial in relation to what they’re doing. We can already see instances of this in stuff like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/other social media, where often people post pictures or posts with the intent of getting a lot of “likes” or “reblogs”. People begin to value numbers rather than the memories that occured behind the pictures or the meaning behind posts. There has to be a balance of gamification techniques with real life meaning, or else we run the danger of losing meaning and merely living to achieve abstract “points.”

  16. While I did find Jane McGonigal’s talk really interesting, the things she was saying in her introduction made me feel quite the opposite of the point she was trying to make. When talking about the photograph of the “gamer face”, she talked about how positive and great this photograph was for the gaming community.

    However, I know that face. I make that face. That face, while positive for me, doesn’t mean I’m going to save the world. I’ve mentioned this a lot throughout all of our class discussions, but, at least for me, play is not about interacting with the outer world, but getting into touch with my inner world. When I’m in a dark room with a bright screen and my entire being is absorbed into the pixels in front of me, I am one with the game and am no longer thinking about anything going on around me. I am engrossed into a world of fantasy, and the only thinking I am doing has nothing to do with the world around me; it has to do with my inner person and who I am becoming as I play the game. A lot of gameplay is meditation, and while a person can come out of gameplay a better, stronger person, that meditative state is still only reached through just that; meditation. And this meditative gaming state is different for everybody, but being completely engrossed in a game is still the only way they will reach that zen state.

    Social aspects of games do help to develop communities, but for the most part, when a person is playing World of Warcraft, they are still in this zenlike mode on their own personal computer, by themselves, “talking” with another person’s text on a screen. Their social interaction is extremely limited, and this allows the player to continue to stay in their own mind, staying completely absorbed in the gameplay. Gamers and games can change the world, but with the way gameplay is right now, there still needs to be a huge change in the social aspect of gaming.

  17. From Maryyann, moved here

    After listening to Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, I have a few conflicting opinions about her talk. I think it’s interesting to use games as inspirations to solve worldly problems, but I think that her comparisons are a little stretched. Games are addicting, but there aren’t as many risks in games that are present in real life. I do think that games can bring people together and break boundaries as well as teach people to keep certain good habits.

    I can see in some of my friends the gamer qualities she mentioned. I noticed that people who tend to be good at games were also very good at academics. They seem to work hard at everything.

    She says “EPIC” a lot.

    I think libertarian paternalism can definitely be pushed to the extreme. It reminds me of those make your own adventure books. The reader chooses his/her options and paths, but somehow always end up at the same or similar conclusion.

  18. While the idea of games for social good is not new (I remember that vocabulary game or something), the scale for which Jane McGonigal is arguing is much more ambitious. I like Jane’s vision and respect her ideas, but I simply don’t see any of it being feasible. She gives examples of people being motivated to do things in WoW because of this epic win aspect (as a non-gamer, I’m not even quite sure I understand how that works… I’m also dubious of how much players are actually motivated by the amazing story behind their mission as she claimed. How much do shallow desires like points/rank/repuation/etc. factor into their behavior?), but I’m not sure how much of this motivation is legitimately transferrable to a game about solving real world problems. She demonstrated a few prototype games of hers towards the end, but they all seem only weakly comparable to the type of game that WoW is. Where is the epic win?
    There is no easy mapping from game world to real life. Most of the psychological appeal of diving into game world in the first place is specifically because it is an escape from reality – it represents a space in which one can learn, experiment, fail, and do without the repercussions of real life. It seems like she’s de-gamifying games rather than gamifying the way we solve real world problems. Let people play games for the sake of playing. Her mission is optimistic and a worthy goal to strive towards, definitely, but not at the scale that she is proposing.

  19. As typical of the filthy French, the situationist article is written with obfuscated language such that the writer makes broad, overreaching statements without actually justifying it. Part of their thesis is that competition in play is a tool by oppressive authority to distract from existentially meaningless lives in the post-World War industrial era. Debord says nothing to support this and goes on to stretch connections between this competition in play and appropriation of goods. It is not at all clear what the fundamental difference between competitive and collective play are, even if one prematurely assumes that the two types of play are mutually exclusive, and their connection to meaningfulness is even more tenuous.

    McGonigal’s general point seems to be that we can design and play games that directly tackle (not just discuss) social issues, which isn’t too much of a stretch. But she generalizes both real life and video games as a medium to make claims that are a bit too grandiose. Not all games reinforce (nor should they) social fabric, urgent optimism, etc. and not all real life issues are reducible to gamifiable elements.

    There seems to be some controversy in academic circles on whether libertarian paternalism is an oxymoron, but without getting too much into the conversation, it seems to me that it depends on choice. For example, one might consider a society where the price of healthier food is artificially capped to be cheaper to be libertarian parternalist, while another society where the price of unhealthy food has a lower cap of $1000 would be considered authoritarian. That would be because in the latter, a choice is artificially made to be more costly than the default, while in the former, a choice is made more costly *relative* to the other choice. This distinction of choice should be considered in any process of gamifying — the choice not to participate should be equally as viable as it would have been without the gamification.

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