A Workshop about the Potential and Implications of Gamification
(Incubator at Leuphana University, Art & Civic Media Lab at the Centre for Digital Cultures)
Aims of the Workshop
This call is for an initial gathering of scholars, practitioners and creatives to start the process of rethinking what “Gamification” means – after the first hype has cooled down. We intend to form a group of critical thinkers in order to develop research perspectives, theoretical positions, concepts and projects that change our ideas of how we will look at gamification. A publication and other forms of presentation are planned to take place, supported by the Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana University.
Introduction: About Gamification
“Gamification” is a buzzword of today’s marketing business, but also an accurate description of a fundamental shift in modern society: the permeation of economical, political and social contexts by game-elements. Rule structures and interfaces, inspired by computer games, are exceedingly used by corporations to manage and control brand-communities and to create value. Here are a few examples:
- In Nike’s “Nike+” system, participants can measure their achievements in running with their smartphones and compare them with the ones of friends and in leagues. The experience of doing sports is thus turned into a game.
- German company Blacksquared developed a gamification-system to promote a portable solar-panel: The participants measure the energy, they produce, attain points for saved CO², and compare their scores in public rankings.
- In Jane McGonigal’s “Super Better”, participants define their own goals in getting better in something (e.g. losing weight) and they achieve points for mastering “quests”. “Super Better” turns traditional guidebooks into a rule-system, represented in a way that resembles a computer game.
All three examples share characteristics of gamification: Real actions are being quantified and made comparable, the results are ranked and processed by a rule-system, the participants experience immediate and vastly exaggerated feedback, and the representation of the system and the feedback conforms to the conventions of computer games. But is this very rule-based understanding of gamification the only possible one?
A few years ago, “gamification” seemed to be nothing more than just a marketing ploy (cp. Bogost 2010), but the ongoing popularity of business- and design-related conferences about gamification testifies that it might be more.
The notion of “gamification” (or “ludification”) is highly contested within Game Studies (e.g. Schell 2010; Bogost 2010; Ionifides 2011; Deterding, Khaled, Nacke, Dixon 2011; Raessens 2006; Fuchs & Strouhal 2008). It also has been presented as a possibility to solve social problems and thus as an alternative to politics regarding the regulation of society (cp. McGonigal 2011). This further complicates a definition and profoundly challenges our understanding of games: While most games can be thought as rule-governed spaces, separated from reality and without consequences, gamification aims at the very opposite: interfusing social-life and regulating real behavior.
What is missing up to now, however, is a critical analysis of concrete examples as well as theoretical reasonings about the ethical and political implications (cp. Escribano 2012). The objective of our workshop is to change that: Gamification might be a buzzword, but it surely is a symptom of an underlying, fundamental trend in our society.
Forthcoming Events and Activities
The first workshop will gather scholars with the purpose of critically rethinking the concept of gamification. It will be the first stage in a series of events involving the publication of the texts produced by the participants. Also, we intend to establish with this event an enduring research group focused on the concept of gamification, which will involve visual artists and designers as well as academics, interested in rethinking this concept outside of its usual contexts.
What happens when the design tools of gamification, adopted mostly in the context of marketing, are put to other purposes? How can we imagine game environments which question the ethical and political implications of engaging the user? How can we think of gamification as a process where different ideologies are represented, where “self-improvement” or “saving the world” are reimagined and questioned in their political and ethical assumptions? Does the gamification of society go beyond the implementation of specific design elements for particular purposes? Are there subversive forms of gamification?
The workshop will firstly provide a broad understanding of the concept of gamification, analysing specific examples and applications in social sectors (e.g. in higher education, or for tackling social causes). This initial analysis will debate the philosophical implications of the concept, while also analysing its potential uses. It will furthermore discuss what the implications of this process are when applied to public policy, or to forms of self-help and self-management. This will then provide the ground for the participating researchers to outline their contribution to the future publication.
If you want to participate, please send us a short abstract (1000 to 1500 characters), where you outline your interest and perspective on the phenomenon of gamification to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: rethinking gamification) until 10th March.
Notification of acceptance will be sent out by the end of March.
Possible topics (amongst others)
- Modes of Gamification
- Historical precursors
- Ethical implications
- Impact on society
- Artistis’ gamification strategies and tactics
- Economic and political aspects of Gamification
- Gamification vs. Ludification (vs. Playification)
- Subversive forms of gamification
Key Dates and Facts
Length of abstracts: 1000 to 1500 characters
Deadline: 10th March 2013
Notifications of acceptance: End of March.
Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg
Begin: 15th May (Wednesday) afternoon
End:17th May (Friday) noon.
Conference attendance is free.
Selected presenters will receive travel and accomodation support.
Art & Civic Media is a Research Lab that is part of Leuphana University’s Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC). At the “Art and Civic Media Lab”, we research the implications of artistic, non-institutionalised and activist media practices within digital culture.