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Monday Morning Gamification and Gaming the System

October 11, 2010

So it is Monday and I thought I’d blog a little about gamification as it’s been on my mind.  I heard the term from Simon of Slingshot Games.  In a nutshell the term is about games that go beyond the normal area that a game occupies into work, school, college and more  Here’s one definition:

[Gamification] is the application of game technology and game design outside “gamespace” and the acceptance of games in non-gaming sectors.

When you think about it, this is a common occurrence anyway – we just might not be aware that we a playing. If you define a game as a challenge with rules (I know there is a huge debate as the definition of a game, but bear with me…) then we’re always playing; Be it an accountant trying to game the tax system, a student reading through past exam papers to try and try a predict the coming questions, a parent turning lunch into a game so their child eats all the vegetables…

If gamification is expanding the game into everyday life then we need to explore the ideas of where the line in gaming is.

There is playing within the system – sticking to the rules and trying to win.  There is also gaming the system – trying to win but by bending the rules and/or exploiting loopholes within the system. This is where the dividing line between ‘gaming’ and ‘gaming the system’ blurs…

Let me give you an example – in Rugby if you throw or kick the ball off the edge of the pitch then the other side gets a throw-in.  This rule is to keep the ball in play and theoretically penalises the team who knocked it out.  Yet this is often exploited – delibertaly kicking the ball off the edge of the pitch but as far into the oppositing team’s side as you can.  It’s a deliberate breaking of the rules for a calculated advantage and sport is full of such tactics.  It’s gaming the system.

This may (or may not) be against the spirit of the game – but it can help your team to win.  This (for me) in in contrast to video gaming where a good game gives multiple strategies and I see it as a success of the game system if you can find an exploit within it.  That is the spirit of video gaming – beat the game system.  In short as a player and a games designer – I’m looking for people to game the system.  Again, here’s an example:  In The Great Escape you were able to sneak up behind a German guard and grab him round the neck.  What followed then was a bit of button bashing where the guard struggled to escape and you had to subdue him.  What I then noticed was that people would grab the guard and only partially subdue him, so as not to knock him out – then use him as a human-shield when fired upon by other guards.  They were gaming the system and I was really pleased when I noticed this.

Here’s another interesting post on gamification and gaming the system – this time in real life..

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