Gamification is the use of elements of game design on non-game context. Hey, I know, definition suggestions have been multiplied so far, but let me get to my point. When game elements are the subject, the first concepts that probably come into minds are points, badges and leaderboards. Other than these, game-like screens, WoW concept menus; well; progress bars, so on. The second argument is mostly about that elements; which one is necessary, which one is not, which are more useful when combined. But we have probably missed one point and forgot to re-ask a question after gamification is reconsidered: What is a game element? My answer to this is simple: Smash the game into pieces and find out!
Smashing comes from Smash Your Brand! concept of Dear Martin Lindstrom that I cited below. I want you to tear the pieces of your greatest gaming moments down. Remember the games that you play addictively, were you playing them because you earn badges or points? Because there’s a board of points showing you and your in-game-opponents? Probably not. Icon adventures and Sim series are not the games that I remember keeping any score. Levels can be accounted as badges but if you are an arcade player that likes to play short-termed play-like games, you know that it’s not always about these.
Because you had fun? Mostly, but all the time? How about the times that you play because you feel urged to? Times when you have nothing to do better but try to pass the cursed level that you cannot pass in Candy Crush? Is that fair to name your furious times as ‘fun’? How many times have you tried repeatedly a level of Super Frog in which your Frog dies because you missed to press the jump button with miliseconds? Think about the games that you play the most. Have you been playing them because you had been having fun all the time or because you have had no other useful habits than playing Spider Solitaire?
I think we should seperate formal elements, fun and engagement. Yep, people behave toward feelings, but people have not always had the instinct to have fun. You want to play the game because you like to feel angry but then very relaxed once you pass the level that you try hard to succeed. You may want to play it to pump some adrenaline through your veins by: Horror games, first-person car races or shooters. Even those can be classified as fun factors, I believe fun becomes a secondhand concept if habitual plays or engaging factors like feeling responsibility for playing the game as a series of events.
So, I am not sure if this occurs to me a lot since I am an OB master (never the same, similar or anyhow related to Obi-Wan by the way) but I believe that searching any kind of significance in formal and visual elements for a game design only makes a good brain exercise, optimistically. What really matters is to discover what engages people to use a gamified design that reminds them of the glorious moments of playing their favorite games. If possible, have as much fun as using the tools to playing an addictive game. It might sound weird, but believe me it’s not. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. (That sounds kind of related to Obi-Wan, only indirectly.)
In fact, I started to write for saying stuff about stories, heroism and gamification, but I think that’ll make another seperate blog post. This was also not supposed to be a father-son gathering, just let me use the Skywalkers and McClaines to end the post properly.