Tuesday, April 12, 2011

‘Gamification’ of tasks is serious business

Software Development Times april 2011
‘Gamification’ of tasks is serious business

(Note: posted from .pdf at http://www.sdtimes.com for educational review as it is not searchable on engines.  industry people can get a free subscription from them)

When the Serious Games Summit first began in 2004, the event was heavily focused on the military and business applications of tailor-made videogames.

Pentagon officials tested out rifle games
against wall projectors, while Alcoa discussed
its forklift simulation game
designed to teach employees about
warehouse safety.

But this year, the summit expanded
its focus to include the ramifications of
commercial gaming.

Benjamin Sawyer, director of the
Serious Games Summit at the Game
Developers Conference in San Francisco,
said that “gamification”—the act of
making a task into a game—is the big
new buzzword for this space. But he
also said that this year’s event marks the
first time that speakers have focused on
the ramifications of widespread gameplay
upon society.

“The first three speakers were not
about demos, they were about meaningful
pieces of work people were doing that
represent one of the serious outputs of
games,” said Sawyer. “Nina Fefferman [a
professor at Rutgers University] spoke
on making real decisions based on ‘World
of Warcraft.’ Her output isn’t a game; it’s
a new epidemiological tool derived from
real gameplay.” (Fefferman’s research
concerned an in-game plague that could
spread among players.)

In a different session, Jayne Gackenbach
of Grant MacEwan University in
Edmonton, Alberta, described a study
that compared the frequency and
severity of nightmares in military personnel
who played games frequently
against those who played games infrequently.
Her research showed that traumatic
dreams were more common in
soldiers who played games less frequently.

Most of the high-level gamers
she interviewed still had nightmares,
but they were able to control them and
had fewer instances of feeling helpless
or powerless in those dreams.

“With Jayne’s work, she’s trying to
show that maybe games could have
some ability to help people who suffer
from nightmares,” said Sawyer. “You
can see where she’s going with it: trying
to answer this larger question. Those
two talks show that not everything in
serious games is about the manifestation
of a game. It’s the manifestation of
the contributions games can make in
serious ways beyond entertaining us.”

Sawyer also said that the buzzword
“gamification” is being put to the test
this year, thanks to the popularity of
social games like FarmVille.

“Serious games always follow closely
behind commercial games, and so
social games are popular this year. I
think that’s what’s driving gamification.
People are looking to see what’s the
extreme side of the curve, and how do
we use that?” he said.

“The other theme is serious games
have a big interest in scalability. If you
want to affect people, you want to affect
a lot of them. If you look at 500 million
Facebook users, you think about how
you can get to them.

“Early serious games dealt with really
serious topics. You’d get these big
games for big topics. I think, now, people
are saying the problems are big, but
the games don’t need to be. But they do
need to be big in one way, which is
scale. The industry’s notion of what
scale was five years ago was a triple-A
hit title, which is different now.”

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