Is Gamification Reverse Engineering of Game Design?

Welcome gamers and players,

the answers is “yes“. Easy, uh? Ok i have to explain… here and here I wrote I long dissertation about gaming. In Italian, unlucky for you. I analyze very deeply the psychological and social characteristic of the role-playing game. Summarizing it at extreme level, I found a dynamics like: Person -> Player, that is based on concept of “boundaries”.

While gaming, you can’t be fully yourself as a Person: you have to follow rules, that force you into the role of Player. In some game (like Role-playing game) you enter also in another lever:  you have to not act like “Player”, but like “Character”, that have even stricter boundaries (if you do not, then you will be charged in “meta-gaming”: for example you know exactly how many Hit Point last to the dragon, while your knight cannot).
My point is (but in fact it’s quite accepted, almost in role-playing game and educational environment) that this  relationship is double-faced. In fact, Person <-> Player.

In a  “normal” game you give rules followed by players. This rules allow or disallow some actions that can “ruin” the game itself. My classic example is a “Risk” play, in which the two last players (target: “conquer the World”) don’t want to attack first (like during the Cold War). This is not explicitly forbidden by rules, instead it is enforced  by rules (rules favour defending instead of attacking): but in this situation a game can last without end.
So the person have to force himself to act in-game as “good player”: probably, as person, he will do something different (be sure that if I am one of the 2 world leaders, and have a lot of panzer, I don’t want to crush against my enemy until a single one will last).
So when designing a game your target is to allow as many people as possible to follow easily your rules, become players, and have fun.

In gamification instead you use the same instrument (gaming), but with an opposite target! You want that what the Player see, do and feel will change “behaviour” (or attitude, or consuming choices and son on) of the Person itself.

Don’t forget that: you can build quite effective game in gamification if you think that your target is the opposite: work on Person, not on Player. You will have Person <- Player. If you think deeply on that, you will realize that you can do really crazy things: depending on your needs you can make a game that will deliberately upset people, or that they will never want to play again (I’m thinking here at some shock-educational game).

As last point, I give you a suggestion: think about the fact that the most addictive games (as gambling) break the separation between Person and Player. The destruction of the boundaries make easy for some people to identify themself only as a player. This is the root of gambling addiction: you can think about yourself only as a player (who is, by the way, forced to play to even exist).

Remember: in Gamification you are not focusing on Player: you are focusing on Person. And be careful: working on a Person is quite more riskful than having the Player in the front line.

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