Mobile. Social. A couple of words thrown around when you hear the mainstream talk about the future of gaming. It has people seeing Facebook as the new blue, the iOS as the new engine that drives the culture. Understandably, this has hardcore console and PC gamers seeing red and their voices roaring. The good fellows over at Kotaku frame a good bit of this argument well.
We’re seeing legends like John Romero (Doom, Quake) and Brian Reynolds (Civilization II, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri) switching sides to develop the next line of cutesy Ville-games on the social network. Yet, we’re also seeing the core striving with the likes Bulletstorm and the soon to be released L.A. Noire. With tunnel vision, these are the only sides you can pick from. You’re either a traditional console/PC gamer, or you’re on the ‘Avant-guard’ of gaming’s social and mobile invasion. That’s rather confining, if you think about it. Gaming can do so much more. This is where Gamification comes in.
I’d like to clear the air before we go further and let you know I have a foot on both sides. My first game was Star Wars for MS DOS. I’ve owned a Genesis, Super NES, 64, Saturn, Playstation, XBox, PS2, PS3, 360. I nearly lost my mind when I first heard that they’re really bringing Duke Nukem back. At the same time, I love killing hordes on Mini Gore and I support Romero’s Ravenwood Fair. Perhaps this is where I get my view — when you really see what gaming can do on a wide variety of platforms, actually study the mechanics and gamers’ responses to those mechanics, you start to think of gaming in terms of platforms. Consoles and PC, great. Facebook, cool. iOS, awesome.
Then, you ask, what happens when you make life itself a platform?
Gamification is a term used when you apply game mechanics to a non-gaming platform. Let’s say the owner of a fictional car dealership is a big Call of Duty fan. Let’s call him Big Bill. When Big Bill is not selling cars, he’s pwning on CoD: Black Ops. One day he thinks, “I wonder if my salespeople will sell more if I make a trophy system in the office.” Let’s say this is Big Bill.
Big Bill comes up with a list of trophies and the way you get them. He posts it up in the break room. You get the “Kill Streak” when you sell 5 cars in a day; and you get “Camper” when you’ve sold 3 cars to the same person, and so on. The person with the most trophies at the end of the year gets a $10K bonus. Runner up get’s a Rolex.
Here’s why his people sell more: they’re all playing the same game and so they’re competitive, they talk trash while sharing their scores and how they landed big sales, but, most of all, they’re gamers.
Game designer and a personal hero of mine, Jane McGonigal, said much of our generation and much more of the next are huge gamers. A lot of us game so much that we feel we’re better at games than we are at real life. However, she sees that this changes if you implement game mechanics outside of the game space. Not so much turning life into a game, but, making it so that doing something awesome like donating your time to a charity earns feedback, say, the “Hero of the Poor” badge.
Imagine a system that gives you quests to accomplish in real life, with badges along the way. Much more than just succeeding at business as in the Big Bill example, but succeeding at helping countries torn by war or natural disaster, succeeding at worthwhile projects like curing cancer, succeeding at raising a family.
These sound like lofty goals, the family one sounds a little corny. But when you think about the rate of divorce in the U.S. and the biblical quakes and crusades currently happening all over the news, why not? All we need are quests. We’re quite badass at beating quests.
The world is getting there. There are already systems created that let you earn points and badges just by going out (foursquare, Yelp). Gamify, a gamification startup based in San Francisco, Calif. sees great potential in this as well. All we need now are some more designers who see beyond the core vs. social argument. Consider this Gamer Limit’s preview to the next big game called life.