Why play? A few notes on games, gamification and serious gaming

A game is a structured for of play which has a specific goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation from players. Games are usually played for enjoyment, but can be used as an educational tool.

Gamification uses basic game design techniques (goals through rewards, feedback through points, and competition through leader boards) to encourage a specific, pre-determined outcome (e.g.: interaction, behavior change) in a non-game context. Gamification does not create a full game experience but is still a useful tool that has been successfully applied to eliciting specific behaviour changes. However once the game design techniques (rewards, points, etc.) are removed, behaviour often reverts.

Gamification uses extrinsic motivators to change behaviour.
Gamification is a con … “it tricks people into believing that there is a simple way to imbue their thing with the psychological, emotional and social power of a great game” (Margaret Robertson)

Serious games use fun to motivate people to do something they would not normally do and can change the conversation by creating a safe space (the magic circle). A serious game is a game that’s goal is something other than just entertainment, using the magic circle to enable players to discover their own insights. Serious games use experiential learning that has meaning for the player and provides an opportunity for mastery.

Serious Games use intrinsic motivators to change behaviour.
“Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comphrension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun” (Raph Koster)

A few interesting books to help delve deeper into serious games and gamification:

  • Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal
  • Gamify – Brian Burke
  • A theory of fun – Raph Koster

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