Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gamification: Know Thy Enemy

'Gamification' has entered my life world (to use the parlance of the practitioners) several times recently. I was so struck by the latest prick of Gamification this evening that I spent some time thinking about it. I Googled and watched a video where a follower presented her vision of a world explained through: “the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as “funware”)"

Gamification offers a form of aesthetics that anchors beauty and taste within a dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. In gamification there is the dialectic cycle of life-play-completion. Combined with this structure is the supposed 'revolution' of transmediality. "A transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole." (Henry Jenkins, "Searching for the Origami Unicorn"). Transmediality is a revolution within the appropriating culture that destroyed the earth mounds of the Americas, the barrows, earthworks, stone circles and cromlechs of Western Europe, the sonic ball-courts of the Maya and the Borra rings of Australia. In these contexts, the play/story dialectic is meaningless. In the enacting of myth in ancient ritual space and the place of meaning opens up before the initiated (i.e. the literate) in the embodiment of their socialized being. As the French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud said, "The whites are landing. Cannon! We have to submit to baptism, clothes, work. I've received the coup de grâce to my heart." (A Season in Hell).

Avoidance of gamification offers us the space of play and the control of place. We are instead living the story rather than playing the game. A game is a set of rules and a goal at its bare minimum. It may require a story but it is not a necessity. The game becomes the manual for action and understanding for the collective of players. It claims space and anything that follows its rules and moves through that space is made part of the game. ‘Gamification’ – game-ifying life, just commodifies the dream once more. Smooth space is striated and ordered according to the game. Games can be revolutionary, educational, violent, cathartic, even spiritual. But the gamification of life is not about the seriousness of games. It is about 'funware'. Consuming your way to a shallow happiness. Ian Bogost sums it up very well with "Gamification is bullshit".

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