a handbook edited by
Mathias Fuchs, Niklas Schrape, Sonia Fizek and Paolo Ruffino
The Gamification Lab at the Centre for Digital Cultures in Lüneburg, Germany, invites scholars, artists, designers and thinkers to critically question gamification and propose alternatives to the dominant models that have been framing this concept. The project will expand the outcome of the Rethinking Gamification workshop held in May 2013 at the Gamification Lab in Lüneburg, which involved a group of 15 international scholars and artists.
We expect proposals to critically analyse gamification. If interested, please send extended abstracts (1.000 words) for full length papers (8.000 words), to be completed (if accepted) by mid-December 2013. The final papers will be published in Spring 2014.
15th 22nd September 2013
Gamification, intended as ‘the use of game design elements in non game contexts’ (Deterding, Khaled, Nacke and Dixon 2011), can be seen as permeating economical, political and social contexts, and as the result of an increasing popularity of the medium of the video game in mainstream audience. In more recent times, gamification has come to be appropriated by the marketing context. How-to guides, consultancies, workshops, TED talks and online academic courses are promoting gamification as a technique to affect users-players-consumers (the three figures blurring into one). Such discourse has specific institutionalised actors and institutions, and has been dominating the most contemporary uses and definitions of gamification. Texts such as Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (McGonigal 2011), Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps (Zichermann and Cunningham 2011) and the online Gamification course by Kevin Werbach (University of Pennsylvania) on Coursera are proposing a very specific understanding of gamification, as a technique with repeatable mechanics which can improve a business as well as solve social issues and ‘fix reality’ (McGonigal).
However, at the same time a more critical approach has been emerging in the academic and journalistic fields. Several authors (Schell 2010; Bogost 2010; Ionifides 2011; Deterding, Khaled, Nacke, Dixon 2011; Raessens 2006; Fuchs & Strouhal 2008) have debated gamification for the strictly limited (and mostly marketing-oriented) adoption of game design approaches and game studies terminology. Concepts such as ‘game’ and ‘play’ have in fact been assimilated by the enthusiastic promoters of gamification dismissing the cultural and critical aspects intrinsic to playful practices. The political and social implications of gamification have been reduced to a mostly behaviourist model of stimulus and response.
Perspectives for Research
The purpose of the Rethinking Gamification workshop held in May 2013 at the Gamification Lab was precisely to critically analyse gamification and look at potential alternatives. The results, collected on the Lab’s blog, have sketched at least three directions for research.
PLAY: What forms of play are proposed by gamification? The player imagined and expected by most of the gamified systems is not supposed to play with the rules of the game, or with its material boundaries. Playful cheating is not expected as it would contradict the rationale for gamifying an experience (the effects of the experience would become unpredictable and not controlled by the designer). Also, playing in gamification is explicitly productive, it is expected to produce an explicit result. What would be the consequences of broadening such a narrowed down perspective on play?
SOCIAL: Gamification makes sense when a social aspect is introduced. Intended in its simplest form, the use of rankings and forms of reward require a social dimension for the player, who will make sense of the received feedback in relation to a social context. Moreover, the ambition to affect and modify reality (by changing consumer habits, increasing the collaborative activities between workers, improving learning skills or improving the world) implies a performative potential for the game which allegedly alters the player and his or her relation with the social environment. How can this performative aspect be questioned? What are the implications of designing games within a social context, and how has this aspect been developed and understood in contemporary forms of gamification?
CREATIVITY: How can creativity emerge through gamification? Gamification appears to propose a top-down perspective on creativity, as framed within the limits of a structured experience. However, creativity can take different forms and be interpreted in different ways. What is at stake in playing a gamified system in a creative way? How can gamification understand and channel users creativity? What are the ethical implications of a creative use of gamification? Creativity has been rarely addressed in the studies of gamification, but we believe it can become a crucial issue, from both a design perspective and for understanding how different forms of play can be involved.
The Gamification Lab invites to submit proposals for full length papers that intend to further explore these areas, and directly critique the most contemporary approaches to gamification. We also intend to move forward from a merely oppositional approach to gamification and imagine a broader, more inspiring and possibly ethical approach to the design of a playful experience.
Key facts and dates
- We invite proposals (1.000 words) to be submitted by
15th22nd September 2013
- Notification of acceptance: beginning to mid of October 2013
- Full papers (8.000 words) are expected by 15th December 2013
- Publication is expected by Spring 2014
- Questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org