It is time to learn a new word today, gamification. No, I did not make it up. It is a term that has become a popular buzz word which we as gamers should be mindfully aware. Gamification is the introduction of game mechanics into everyday life in order to get adoption by the target audience. It is an attempt to get users to reach predetermined behaviors and outcomes while using something the user thinks of as entertainment. While you might consider it a Jedi mind trick, you can see it in web applications and even embedded into games. It intertwines ideas from traditional gaming, finance, psychology and sociology. The core principle is to take the best part of gaming and apply it mundane things. If it takes the pain out of the boring, I am all for it. However, that is as long as I am conscience that I am partaking of it.
So what do we mean by gamification? Have you ever really thought about achievements, leveling, progress bars, virtual currency, points systems and leader boards? Take a look at World of WarCraft, Counter-Stike, Left 4 Dead, or any other game you are currently playing. Each and every one of them has some or all of the characteristics of gamification embedded into them. Take a look at the images below. The one from World of WarCraft takes the cake. It has a version of Plants vs. Zombies inside the game where you can earn gold (a virtual currency), experience (a level and progress bar), and can give you achievements. All designed to give you a release from the traditional game by replacing it with another game. In the end, Blizzard Entertainment gets its monthly fee and you keep playing a game you like.
Games inside of our games are fine as they entice us to play more, become better skilled, or bring more friends into our gaming experience. However, the use of game mechanics has gone to a whole new level. (Hahaha! See we just did it to you there!) Applications like Twitter, Foursquare, Farmville, Minecraft and even Facebook employ gamification techniques. Facebook? Really? Yes, even your mother cares how many friends she has on Facebook. Do you know anyone who has over 1,000 friends on Facebook? These people are collectors. There is no way anyone can really keep up with that many “True Friends.” Or at least I haven’t figured out how to do that… and come to think of it, I don’t really want to.
Our society and culture dictates a need for constant comparisons and contrasts. It is in our DNA. Take a close look at these statements:
“I’m too short.”
“I make more money than he does.”
“Man, I wish I could drive that car.”
“Do these jeans make me look fat?” (If your significant other asks this... RUN!!!)
The ultimate goal of all of these comparison statements is to make us perceive our place in the world versus someone else. For better or for worse, the media and marketers know how this works all too well. They take advantage of this underlying human behavior and now are employing gamification tactics. Instead of the pushy salesman sticking their foot in the door, they get you to want to stick your foot in the door. In some cases it is much nicer experience as we become empowered to buy instead of being sold to. However, in others, you are being manipulated. Which of these is happening to you is all dependant on your perspective.
So in some circumstances it is just another way for Blizzard to suck me into yet another dungeon, do hard modes for achievements or go on some crazy quest chain to obtain a legendary item. This may not be fun to some of you, but for millions of monthly subscribers, having some rare item means something. Perhaps you want to be the best Battlefield 2 team or climb the ranks on the leader boards. Whatever your aim, you are gamifying your game. It is a tool to encourage us the consumer to tap into content at a deeper level of engagement for a longer period of time.
Outside of the games (the distraction from the real world) we are being bombarded with gamified ideas. You see them on websites, at work, and just about everywhere. At work the goal is to increase your productivity (who has the best numbers? … insert your key metric here). At the DMV you get a number and some TVs. So while you wait to hear your number called you watch something while you fill out paperwork. In stores there are displays and interactive demos to get you to hang around longer, to win some contest, to engage in a survey, or influence yourself or someone you know to buy something.
So what does this all add up to? (Did it again to you there.) People who contribute, take part, or play games follow a path laid out for them by someone with an underlying goal in mind. Think through what is at stake. Usually it is an exchange of time and or resources for money. Sometimes it is educational. More often than not, it is a waste of time which could be better spent on doing something else. This in financial terms is lost opportunity cost. Next time you engage in any activity, think about what it is you are doing and then think about the cost. If you are getting entertainment value or some other quantitative value that allows you to sleep better at night, then go for it. This is America! Don’t get suckered in like a lemming into some behavior that takes you away from your pursuit of happiness or hinders your freedom to choose.
”Head-Shots” in an opinion editorial piece from the Editor-in-Chief that explores something that he has been pondering the past week. These editorial selections are just some thoughts regarding new technologies, trends, or something he thinks is cool. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the FiringSquad team, anyone living or passed on. No animals were harmed in the making of this Op-Ed article except the ones I consumed for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. O.o
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ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
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Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
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