life’s a game

image by lunchbreath via flickr

Maybe it shouldn’t make me sad, this whole concept of gamification. After all I understand that we are more often than not driven not by what is right or good—whether than be for ourselves or other(s)—but by what makes us feel right and good. The old carrot and the stick.

But what differentiates the concept of gamification is that the incentive should not be to avoid the punishment, with all that negativity, but rather to achieve the goal, to earn points. Most of us know that adrenaline rush, that burst of joyful confidence when we level, and since life’s a game, well, I suppose that is precisely what these marketing wizards are saying.

It’s yet another reminder that however lofty our impressions of our self control and of what drives us we are really not so lofty after all. My experience in training both children, employees, and dogs (as well as in motivating myself) is that we work best when there is something in it for us. That’s the cold hard truth. We like treats. They can be tangible or intangible, simple or complicated, alone or tied into a greater plan. The key thing is that we like to do some things in order to get others. Nothing more effective, or universal, whether we like it or not.

I guess what seemed to bother me about the concept is that it proposes making a “game” of things that are quite serious. Follow the speed limit not because you’ll get some sort of reward for doing so, not because you might kill someone if you don’t. Go to the market for your neighbor because you’ll get points, not because they are sick and can’t go by themselves and you are well. Reminds me of a “religious” person who told me once that we should do good deeds because God and the angels literally record an ongoing talley of our acts (pure addition and subtraction) to give us a final score, kind of like a credit score to be used on the day of judgement, but without free reports.

Once I get past the initial “must it be a game in order for us to do what’s right!?!” I realize that even if it mustn’t be, making it one, even slightly, might actually improve things. Make boring tasks less so, make things we dread doing less dreadful. The incentive, they’ve determined, is actually less effective when it is cash, so perhaps creative ways of compensating us, barter systems, etc. might crop up which would shake things up a bit.

This concept is growing on me. We’re all basically beasties, after all, let’s just embrace it.


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