This article is written as a reflection on the introduction of Rethinking Gamification (2014):
Gamification as a concept has a complex semantical history. For most within the industry the term refers to: utilising game design practices in wider sociological contexts – i.e. everyday life. This understanding was popularised by the 2010 TED talks of Prof. Jane McGonigal and her associated work Reality is Broken. Broadly understood McGonigal’s interpretation of Gamification is defined by Fuchs et al as: ‘a concept that describes …. Where gamers can collectively use their problem-solving skills not only to solve puzzles within a digital game but also to approach social and political issues in the real world.’ (Fuchs, M. Fizek, S. Ruffino, P. Schrape, N, 2014). They proceed to describe how this has been a successful corporate strategy for McGonigal’s prior work for corporations such as McDonalds.
Whilst there is scant mention of the term gamification in her book, the broad idea is accurately described. McGonigal has since distanced herself from ‘gamification’ and its typical usages, opting instead for ‘gameful design.’ Those who are more critical of gamification denote its techniques to little more than Pavlovian psychological manipulation, utilising audio-visual triggers and compulsion loops often to incur reliable and profitable actions from users.
The writers of Rethinking Gamification attempt to redefine gamification in opposition to its culturally popularised term in the industry across a series of articles. The authors state their initial justification as gamification appears to exist in public/private sectors and in a meaningful growing socio-economic context which therefore qualifies it worthy of study. The articles throughout the book consider a series of interesting diversions, critiques and reimagining of the concept that do not befit the overall reconceptualisation of the practice of gamification but instead a much broader field of study for the reader to engage with.
In this effort the authors propose to provide the already fraught term with new meaning(s) altogether. It is unclear why a radical reimagining and mutation of gamification needs to remain defined by the old term. The authors intend for the term to be destroyed and rebuilt and it is only in accepting their authority in this conceit that their central project be given any comprehension. Beyond semantics the continual use of gamification is not clearly signified in this introduction and the term is now more elastic than ever. If the term is loaded with baggage and thus dead, it would be prudent to let a broader lexicon of approaches emerge and replace it.
Fuchs, M., Fizek, S., Ruffino, P., Schrape, N. (2014), Rethinking Gamification, Introduction, Lüneburg: Leuphana University/meson press, pp.7-20, available at https://meson.press/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/9783957960016-rethinkinggamification.pdf
McGonigal, J. (2012). Reality is broken. London: Vintage.