It has become painfully clear that our Society is out of order. Prove for that statement is our current financial crisis. That is just one symptom; a lot more is going on. We are in a transition and many people are aware of this. We are shifting from the information era towards the idea era. Knowledge is everywhere, which has an impact on our relationships. Within a new era trends become visible. Recent studies show us that 97% of our youth between the age of 12 and 17 years play video games. 50% of the people that are connected with the Internet play online games. Sums up to 500 million people that play at least one game each and every month. 80 million play a game each day.

It’s nothing new.

When people play online it makes it easier to measure their behavior, but people played games on a massive scale long before the Internet was born. Think about: imaginary games, board games, card games, games that involve gambling, too many to mention. Physical games that reached a high level of popularity we tend to call sport like: soccer, American football, the Olympics, baseball, basketball, and many more. In short: “humans play!”

This generation plays digitally!


Positive effects games have on us

It seems like playing games is in our genes. We probably like it so much due to the effect these games have on humans.

  1.  Learning ability: People play voluntary and with lots of joy. Games contain mechanics and reward systems that create an experience that result in the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) within our brain. This causes a euphoric feeling that empowers our cognitive capacity. For example: players that reached level 60 of World of Warcraft developed skills that a none-player can’t even imagine. It’s almost impossible to keep track of the movements within the game at that level.
  2. Self-confidence: In a game mistakes are accepted. They don’t even get much attention. A common response within the game is: “Try again!” This mechanism turns out to be the best way to learn something. That’s why I prefer to call mistakes learning moments, or just lessons. Pointing out mistakes have a negative effect on our self-confidence, it’s not constructive.
  3. Transparency: Feedback (even unconscious), makes our progress clear. It creates transparency. A goal gets clearer and reachable during game play.
  4. Cooperation: Most multiplayer games improve the cooperation between people. Next to overseeing a situation in a split second, gamers need to communicate clear and short to reach their goal. They won’t make it if they don’t master these skills.
  5. Creativity: Sandbox games, where players can move and create freely, and possibilities are only limited by our fantasy. This appeals to the explorer type of gamer (see Bartle’s player types) and it tickles their imagination thereby increasing creativity.
  6. Energy: Games are fun. The intensity in which gamers play games can’t be compared to the intensity in which people do their regular job. Having fun at work, knowing you are on track, employees need it to get into a flow. Resulting in a positive attitude that provides energy.

These effects are proper ingredients to push our society through this transition into the next phase. With Gamification we can infuse game design techniques, mechanics and/or style into anything. Meaning that these effects can be accomplished in reality. Its value is obvious. Innovation is survival, a statement that suits the idea era. To be innovative we need: learning ability, self-confidence, transparency, cooperation, creativity and energy. Effects we gain by playing games as noticed before. With Gamification we can infuse them into reality.

 

Growth by Gamification

Gamification can be implemented in various areas to push society forwards.

1. Education

Our educational system needs to change thoroughly. Games need to have educational elements. Game related education is necessary to keep up with the fast pace of current developments our society maintains. First of all we need to learn how to unlearn, otherwise nothing new will be invented. Within our system teachers often correct students for solving a problem in a different way. “Not done by the book”, is a common remark. Instead these “think different” students need to be encouraged. Our reward system is completely wrong. The highest level a student can get is an “A”. The majority won’t reach that “A”, instead their grade will decline in time, which is not very motivating. We should use the mechanism game developers use within a game. Student’s start at level 1 and every time they fulfill their tasks, they reach the next level gaining extra points. If they don’t fulfill their tasks, because it is too difficult, they can try again. Big chance they learned something from their mistakes. Teachers should focus on that: “what lessons can be learned by not doing a certain task properly.” This is called discovery, a much more efficient skill if it comes to education. Learning is copying knowledge that is already available to us. When students fully understand this, it they will more likely discover something new in their own future. Every student has certain qualities, skills and pace. This is only logical, because we are all unique. Educating the individual can be achieved with the use of Gamification.

Finally: game developers that include educational material in their products should be rewarded with a tax discount. All these “so called” wasted hours by playing games by our youngsters could be put to good use. Teachers will still be important, even more in my opinion. They need to become an authority within their field of expertise; they will have more time available because teaching in front of a class is needed less often. Classes can become smaller as well, so every individual gets more attention. Individual attention leads to intelligence as the statistics of the quality of education in Iceland shows us.

2. The Government

The government should operate completely transparent. Seems logical since it should facilitate citizen’s needs. Every Government should be working for its citizens. Important decisions take place behind closed doors. Most of them are not even in the interest of the people. This mechanism is wrong, completely wrong if you give it a second thought. Now back to Gamification. All things considered elections could be seen as a huge game. Politicians need to collect as many votes as they can. They compete against politicians from other political parties. Give people real time full insight in that process, let voters participate through a Gamified system, one that supports common online discussions and rewards people that participate in a constructive manner. Reward people that have good ideas, not by giving money but by giving them the status they deserve. Make sure those rewards improve their influence on the system. Feedback is key, give it often, so people (future voters) keep track on everything that’s going on. As a result people will become really engaged. People are less interested in Politics these days and not without reason. The complete system is outdated, parallel societies are far ahead; they do find solutions for issues that are made more complicated by the Government.

But by using Gamification people become part of the political system and they should be. With modern technology this is very easy to achieve. Yet another logical thought if you take in consideration that the political system should facilitate the needs of the citizens. After the elections the program of every political party could be changed into goals and make that process visible to everyone. Show progress on every goal and again let the people participate, which will make it a joined responsibility. Give real time feedback, if (for example) goals will not be reached. Create a strict but honest point mechanism for the politicians, so it will become very clear how they perform. A smart politician can learn from this as well. Don’t give conclusions, just lessons. It requires a different attitude form all of us. We are all humans that learn every day. Also politicians should be allowed to make mistakes, if decisions where taken with the right intentions, as long as they learn from them and get better at their job.

Give people the power to vote online on smaller issues after the elections. Citizens with good ideas should be noticed within the system. Track mistakes and communicate them, the sooner it’s clear that something doesn’t work the sooner people in charge can act. Again, for this to happen we need a different mindset, complete transparency and openness. In return we get complete engaged citizens, a joined responsibility and a political system that’s only there for the citizens. In an ideal world the people rule the country they live in. All a modern government needs to do is facilitate that system!

3. Business

Large organizations with thousand or more employees will soon stop to exist. New cooperative structures are necessary where the employability of every individual is very flexible. Gamification can add a huge value to the development process of a company. It will make developments go much faster. Look at these processes through the eyes of a game designer and you will recognize the game immediately. Every development cycle has different phases. Change the word phase in level and there you have it. Without getting into detail on this. Feedback and participation is important in every phase, game mechanics can make the whole process transparent and can stimulate participation. We shouldn’t think in functions anymore. It’s outdated! Replace functions with roles and your complete organization becomes much more flexible instantly. Because employees within an organization have one only function (in general), but those same employees can have more than one role. Gamification can be used to discover the best-suited role for every individual. Clever systems should provide relevant feedback when it’s needed. They should point out the quality of every single individual. People are dynamic, they change, they learn, they get more experienced. Putting them in a static environment will lead to waste of talent, knowledge and engagement. When organizations would be less rigid, employees could even work for more than one organization. Protecting ideas is a concept that is based on greed. It stands in the way of progress! We do have a long way to go before this awareness will win the fight against our current capitalistic environment. It conditioned too many people; they need to become aware of the fact that this system is failing.
Employees need feedback that they are doing a good job. Reward mechanisms will improve their self-confidence and learning ability. Stimulate knowledge sharing and cooperative initiatives through game mechanics within the organization. Try to create a Sandbox environment, on top of reality, to innovate. Don’t do it alone! It is much easier to innovate together. Don’t forget the fun, people need it to get in the right energetic flow. Give and receive trust!

Is this a utopia? Not at all, new technology brings it within reach. Think about Google Glass, the ever evolving (wireless) Internet and innovations done with the use of Augmented Reality. Combined with Gamification we can make a major step forward. At this point it isn’t easy to predict the impact of this golden combination on our society. There is no doubt however that it will be huge.

My personal interest in Games lies in the fact that everybody plays. Gaming is nothing more than an escape from reality. The fact that Gamification can close the gap between games and reality makes me happy. Especially when I think about the intensity that people show when they are playing games. Imagine that people use that same intensity at work! It will lead to exiting new developments, without any doubt. That thought inspires me.

People that apply Gamification, or develop games have an ethical responsibility. Humans can get addicted to games. The problem isn’t the game; it’s the gap between the beautiful game environment and reality. We just want to escape from that reality.

Gamification reduces that gap.