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the video game as a current of design

Gamification is in fashion. This term that walks through our society extolling the virtues of the video game has become so popular that it has penetrated the collective imagination, even going beyond the specialized areas in which it has entered with more force: such as work environment, marketing or teaching. A stream of design that has become a swearword that, to whom more and less, will be familiar. But what exactly is gamification? This is not a categorical definition, but without being too far off the mark we can describe it as the incorporation of game mechanics and systems to non-game spaces. Accepting that definition, and understanding the video game as one of the most popular forms that the game has adopted todayit is easy to intuit that his degree of influence in all this is high.

This theory, wrapped in its blinding light, seems to contain answers (along with hyperclassrooms and other messianic terms) to many of the ills that plague, for example, our educational system. But as usual, surely the most sensible thing is to assume that in addition to lights, there are also shadows, and that in the same way that the video game and the game, by themselves, do not cure depression, nor do they work as magical elixirs capable of motivating every student and worker who crosses their path. Although that does not deny the existence of a certain potential that can be exploited as long as it does not go from use to abuse.. What is certain is that it is a current that, today, is fully integrated into our society, so, I think, it may be interesting to make a small approximation that, hopefully, will help us to order four basic ideas. We start.

Motivations, origins and journey


Pointing to its origins, or rather to its ideological engine, we arrive at jane mcgonigalthat as he tells us Salvador Gomez in Game & Play (Aranda, Gómez, Navarro & Planells, 2015), and despite not coining the term, established the principles of gamification in 2011in his book Reality is broken. Why games make us better and how they can change the world. In this essay he reveals the general dissatisfaction of the individual with his reality, pointing out the game and its environments as tools that can be used to improve it. How? Through mechanics and systems, typical of the game, capable of capturing the subject’s attention and encouraging him to continue playing. From here, we extract two key ideas whose relationship constitutes the reason for all this: player and motivation. Gamification orbits around them, trying to establish the type of “player” at each moment in order to apply game mechanics and systems that are capable of generating motivation in the personsuch as exploration, challenge, goal rewards, watchlists, ranking-based competition, point and level systems, or achievements.

The gamification appears as a response to the lack of motivation that accustoms to dwell in activities that the human being carries out because he must, not because he wants. And without motivation it is difficult to light the flame of involvement, which is essential when it comes to achieving good results both at work and in studies. There are motivation strategies, well known and naturalized, aimed at getting student and worker involved. The notes, the salary, the recognition for a job well done, the penalties, the punishments, the prizes… In short, extrinsic motivation strategies whose ultimate goal is to make us feel like doing something that, at a given moment, we may not feel like doing. Generally speaking, logic says that if we get paid more we will be more willing to work, just as, when we were little, if we knew that a reward for passing (or a punishment for failing) awaited us, we used to try harder in school (some ). But that type of behavioral motivation has little to do with intrinsic motivationthat which arises from within the person, from his curiosity, from the desire for knowledge, or from the pleasure that efficiency in his work causes him, something that is closely related to the idea of ​​the vocational, and that usually translates into total involvement in what is being done. It’s there, in the search for that level of involvement, where the video game makes an appearance.

Education and the video game industry have been looking at each other for decades, a relationship that has provided products and approaches of all kinds.

We all know, the video game industry is, today, the entertainment business that moves the most money worldwide. which means there is millions of people who play every day, who do so voluntarily assuming the economic costs of said activity and that, in addition, show high levels of involvement. From these figures, which are used to certify the formula, the simplification of the message begins. If the problem of education is involvement, why not imitate what is most successful in that field? Frobel (1782-1827), considered the father of the kindergarten (Kindergarten), it has already put the focus on the game as an element of interest for the child and a basic instrument of education (although from a different perspective), something rescued by the educational theories of the late nineteenth century, which gave rise to movements such as The New School, who drank from the postulates of Rosseau, Pestalozzi and Fröbel himself, and from which names as popular as Maria Montessori came out; so that it may be that going to the game, or by logical evolution of our time, the video game, is not something so revolutionary as it seems

There is potential, but there is also danger


However, the approach is interesting, and it cannot be denied that, despite not being the divine message that it sometimes seems, Several elements can be rescued from the video game that, applied in moderation, make gamification a powerful tool. That said, at implication we can add the failure management and the continuous presence of feedback. Failure is closely linked to learning, so it is necessary to learn to relate to it, and the video game gives us safe and controlled spaces in which failure, in a much more natural way, can be perceived as part of the learning process. (tell Miyazaki). In addition, the video game continuously deals with communicating the status of our game, monitoring it by constantly assessing our performance through scoring systems, life bars, etc. Something highly usable in the teaching-learning process. We speak, therefore, of elements that have potential when it comes to improving educational action and generating interest. So where are the drawbacks?

Gamification in work environments can take on approaches that range from really enjoyable days to distortions that pervert and contaminate its benefits. (Image credits: “Gamification of Life (Jul ’11)” by VFS Digital Design under CC BY 2.0 license)

The first is found in the measure. Excessive gamification, regardless of its scope of application, can be counterproductive, and doing so without knowing the facts as well. Nevertheless, it is a complex process, and it requires knowledge about pedagogy that goes beyond four superficial brushstrokes. If it is not carried out properly, the student does not internalize the knowledge, and the performance becomes pernicious. It is not the same to gamify a reinforcement activity, something that can even be natural, than to try to get the student to achieve the construction of their own knowledge of it through a whole gamified program. Those are big words.

Turning to work, and making it clear that, unlike what happens in the field of teaching, I do not have training, I think it is relatively easy to come up with questionable uses. Trying to pass through psychotechnical test games and theoretical examswhich are actually screening tests of a selection process, while the applicant is told messages of the type “don’t forget to have fun”It seems cruel to me. On the other hand, transferring it to the field of training, according to what terms, is little less than the definitive plot twist to pervert the term. A purpose for which there are many companies with digital services and products that promise, for example, “massively train employees and keep them engaged through gamification techniques that make learning fun, offering perfect tools for learning about new products”. It’s nothing new the market does not let one pass and, obviously, the capitalization of the term was not long in coming.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math, an adaptation of Donkey Kong Jr with which Nintendo approached, in 1985, educational video games. The player had to solve mathematical equations to earn points.

This commodification presupposes, from the outset, the loss of control over the process. A well-structured reinforcement didactic unit, planned by a teacher with the appropriate knowledge and with the ultimate goal of having his students internalize a series of concepts, has little to do with software developed by a company or with a video game cataloged as serious games (which run along paths other than those of gamification), undoubtedly farthest from the realities that occur both in a classroom and in an office. All this without going to the heart of the matter, something that many of us who are video game fans have asked ourselves more than once: why do we play?

The reason of to be


Here, again, it is time to resort to the academy and the study that it has been carrying out both on the game and on the video game, since Johan Huizinga and his Homo Ludenseven contemporary authors such as Michael Sicard with his Play Mattersor Victor Navarro in Directed Freedomall of them coincide in the autotelic character of the game, in the fact that playing is an act and an end at the same time. The goal of the game is to experience the game itself. When we drive to Mario, Joel or Master Chief, when we place blocks in Tetris Effect or throw a Fifa we do it (as a general rule) because we feel like experiencing that activity. It is, therefore, about a voluntary act generated by an intrinsic motivation that, logically, is accompanied by a great implication.

However, what happens when the game is not voluntary?What happens when one is forced to participate in a game against his will, to accept its rules and be bound by them without being able to decide if he wants to participate? Can we then speak of high levels of involvement? Does the person who is being forced to take theoretical tests in the process of selecting a job have fun? Does the child enjoy facing a kahoot when you are far from mastering the subject of it? Obviously, these questions do not invalidate the potential of those elements, typical of the video game, that can be used to improve the involvement of a class, but I think they do serve to draw attention to the danger of beatifying the video game and everything that surrounds it. In this sense, I will go back to Sicard, to point out that, as he points out in the first chapter of Play Matters, playing is a manifestation of humanity, a means through which we express ourselves in the world, and as such it is not exempt from certain danger.

With this little organization of ideas, which I hope can be of use to anyone who doesn’t know much about the subject and is somewhat curious, I do not intend to criminalize gamification. On the contrary, it is a current that I have been interested in for years, but I think that it is important to maintain a certain critical spirit about the siren songs that come to us around everything that surrounds the video game and its legitimacy. It is not going to be that they continue to score goals for us, that passion misleads.

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