Terminology and applicability
The argument or discussion I find around whether it’s alive or dead or what it is, usually revolves around those that what it defined before they can or will use it, and those that use its practices and then wish to define it. I don’t really want to take sides in this case, but if I were pressed and I’d probably end up in the latter, as I had been facilitating group and teamwork experiences without realizing I was, in fact, implementing gamification.
But the problems that arise from these two positions that are across from each other is that certain individuals will associate certain terms and definitions with positive or negative connotations. And that’s unavoidable, depending on how you experience something the first time around, that’s how you’ll probably view it till your final days.
As certain regular readers may know, I enjoy playing and discussing games. I think to be able to do gamification, you need to be an avid gamer. And during my time as a gamer I came across another battle of the terms, in what is now collectively known as the MOBA, or the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. This is term commonly used to describe games such as Dota2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and any other variant upon the idea. But when these were first coming up the community raged about which term should be used to best describe the game they loved, should it be MOBA or ARTS (Action Real-Time Strategy), or some other terms that have faded into the mists of time. In the end, neither the makers of the game nor the hardcore loyalists decided it. The general public, and its interest in the rise of eSports, in the end, decided it, they went with the more commonly discussed and argued term of MOBA.
This is naturally an extreme summary of how and what happened, it simply serves as an anecdote of how often experts argue and then the press and the public pick a term and the experts are left in a dark room to continue arguing what it should or shouldn’t be.
For Gamification alone, we have several terms that have tried to rebuild the image of it, to alter it, to move it to something more fitting of a certain industry. Examples such as Gameful Design, from Jane McGonigal, which I quite like the sound of. Or Gameful UX from the UX Design community trying to lay claim to their own variation. Or Yu-Kai Chou’s Human-Focused Design, though this is more a description I suppose. And other terms such as Behavior Design, and so on, and so on.
Much of the public recognizes Gamification, and the majority of experts tend to fall back on this term when trying to explain it. These various terms are just semantics and their semantic value is determined by the luxury of explaining these variations within a specialization and within a common or shared semiotic domain. In other words, the indulgence of experts trying to create a Unified Field Theory of gamification. But just like in quantum physics, it may or may not exist.
In the end, I would say that the term gamification is alive and well, and that depending on who you are trying to explain it, a friend, a family member, a colleague, a client, then use the definition that suits that conversation the best. Much like with anything in life, we alter what we say and do depend on the audience in front of us. I for one will just use the traditional term gamification and define it as a process or art for improving activities, by crafting challenging and enjoyable experiences for people. And creating those experience by using game elements and meaningful game design. And that one suits my purposes currently.
Hopefully, for those uninitiated that come across this, you’ll have recognized something in it and be a little bit more informed about what and who. And for the initiated, hopefully, this adds to what is an energetic discussion, which as I’ve already said, proves that gamification is very much alive.