Gamification: Great Game, Awful Name

Homo Ludens engReal Games?

Ever since people have tried to define the term “game”, it has led to heated debates about what a Real Game is.


“What makes something a real game or not? Do we need to be able to jump up and down? To shoot? To conquer obstacles?” Although academically interesting, it didn’t help game designers much. It was pretty much the same thing as discussing whether experimental poetry was still poetry. Or: is an e-book still a book and is graffiti on subway trains still art? Great topics to talk about over a drink, but pretty useless when your objective is enhancing experiences of people. Your product either does, or it doesn’t, regardless of how you call it.


Hundreds of articles, thousands of hours of discussion have focused on game definitions and there is just not one good definition that fits all. It’s like a scientific exercise of chasing your own tale. More and more game designers are letting go of the debate of what is a real game and what is not. They have grown tired of the debate and they realize it can and will never be solved. It distracted from making cool designs, it limits what designers think is allowed and made game designers look rigid and inflexible.


Gamification: the Awful NameGamification Next exit

Just like with games, there is certain academic benefit in discussing the definition of Gamification too. I guess most of us agree that the term itself is pretty awful and badly chosen. And for years now people have tried to change it, and it is a discussion that flares up again and again. Sounds familiar?


“Serious Games are not Gamification!” “Games are not Gamification” and the list of debates goes on and on.


However, although academically interesting, there is no real benefit in trying to define Gamification again and again. First of all the term has now been around so long that it is unlikely that it will go away.


More importantly, it’s time to move away from Gamification Definition discussion I think. If something adds to our experience, makes us explore new things then let it be.


Questions about whether a term like Gamification is right or wrong are just not that helpful.


Because we’re unaccustomed to it, we don’t usually see that there’s a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don’t even have a term for it, so I’ll have to use the Japanese mu.


MuMu means “no thing.” Like “Quality” it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, “No class; not one, not zero, not yes, not no.” It states that the context of the question is such that a yes or no answer is in error and should not be given. Unask the question” is what it says.


Why don’t try to more open in the way we see the world. If someone wants to call the unique experience they designed Gamification, then let them do it.  Art definitions do not help us to make better art in the same way that better definitions of Gamification will not help us design better Gamification.


People will not stop buying computers because they are named after fruits or cars after bugs. Let’s take a cue from Buddhism here and unask the question about Gamification definitions. Let’s ‘Mu” it and spend our energy on building awesome engaging experiences for people. Let people say: “Wow, what was that?” and the answer be: “Who cares what it is called, I want more off it!”








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