Monday, June 11, 2012

McGonigal on Games - starting points

OK, before I start blogging about Jane McGonigal’s ideas, I want to put a definition or two on the table.  Not because I am all about semantics, but because it is important that we are talking about the same thing.

A game is something you do for fun.  A gamified process is something that you are doing for another reason, but because you have applied gaming principles to its design, it happens to be fun also.  This may seem like a small nuance, but it is really important.  A gamified process is a lot harder to design because you need to make sure that the precision and accuracy of performance meets the requirements of the process.  A game where you fly a plane is a lot different than a gamified plane simulator where you learn how to fly a plane.  In the game, you can fake accuracy and precision as much as necessary to keep the game fun (Guitar Hero does this liberally).  In the simulator, the trainee’s ability to take off and land accurately is pretty important.  The fun has to be secondary. 

This makes gamification a much harder objective than game design.  Even though McGonigal’s book pastes over this key difference, I think she realized it was there but just didn’t want to muddy the clarity of her message.

McGonigal on Games - Intro

I promised that I would write a few choice blog posts on Jane McGonigal’s book on games and how they could change the world.  I will start out by talking about her basic premise.

Her point is that we enjoy playing games (because of several design attributes that I will talk about in future posts) and that enjoyment makes us more productive and more effective.  So we could make the world a better place if we apply gaming principles to things like work tasks, civic activities, social action, philanthropy, friendship/romantic activities, household/domestic responsibilities, and pretty much anything you can think of.

The logic is very consistent.  If we really do work harder, longer, and better on games and if we can effectively apply gaming principles to these other activities, then it follows that we should be able to improve how people do all these things.  The benefits could be huge in so many ways.

Of course, the devil is in the details.  Just because we enjoy games doesn’t mean we would enjoy gamified work.  Or gamified romance.  And even if we “would” doesn’t mean we "can" effectively apply gaming principles to make it happen. 

But of course the fact that it might not work, and that even if it does work it will be hard to do and not guaranteed by any stretch, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  The potential is too great not to.