Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ian Bogost, #DevLearn “The Real Power of Games for Learning”

This are my liveblogged notes Ian Bogost afternoon keynote session at the eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference, happening this week in Las Vegas. Forgive any incoherence or typos. I am in Vegas, after all...

Ian Bogost
Author of: Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Games

Working to expand the application of games in the world…trying to force games to do things we’re not used to them doing – games outside of traditional uses, outside of entertainment.

We associate games with childrens’ culture – with sloth – “isn’t there something better you should be doing with your time?”

And so while Bogost has been doing his work, out of nowhere came these consultants touting “gamification.” A lot of hype out of nowhere that has accelerated over the past three years.

Using game design in new applications (what Bogost is looking at) vs. gamification…

“Gamification” as a word is brilliant because it makes the process sound easy.  Makes it sound so simple: “We can just gamify this…”, “Insert coin to gamify your business.”

-ification makes it sound so very easy…

As a designer…Bogost things gamification doesn’t have much in common with game design.  Save maybe that it’s taking advantage of the mystery around games.

There is something magical about games; they have power over us.

Game Design vs. Gamification

We’re always really learning when we’re playing games…and in a particular way. It’s not just a skin deep layer, real game design is deep.

Seven different distinctions between game design and gamification.

Out of these, he’ll try to tease out a design pattern.

Game design vs. Gamification
Complexity vs. simplicity
Context vs. isolation
Conditions vs. authority
Transformation vs. engagement
Relationship vs. reward
Discourse vs. quantification
Understanding vs. compliance

Complexity vs. Simplicity

Simplicity: The Fitbit – an example of gamification and simplicity (“the quantified self movement”). It tracks your progress, catalogs your achievements and badges. It’s a clever accessory and a way to visualize your physical activity.

[The idea here is not to decry these things, but to distinguish them from game design practice.]

Complexity: Fatworld – a game about the politics of nutrition. An example of Complexity/Game Design. A game about the relationship between obesity and social class and politics and other predispositions. Your overall wellness is based on decisions that you make. 

Fatworld is an example of a design pattern: “Modeling”. A model offers an abstracted, simplified model of the world.

Context vs. Isolation

Isolation: He shows an example of a gamified training program at Ford.  It’s got badges and things.  This program is not about the learning content – it’s removed the content from the experience. The experience is how to get points and badges in relation to working through the course itself, and not the experience of the content.

Context: An example of a game he created for Coldstone Creamery, which provided lots of context for employees. Not just how to pull the ice cream, but also a model for the employees of how to keep the franchise afloat (by not serving too much ice cream!)

An example of the design pattern: world-building.

Conditions vs. Authority

Authority: Gamification usually just looks like a layer spread on top of another program. He shows an example of a leadership program with leader boards and badges and so on. And so what gamification does here is proxy authorities—by sneaking in the incentives of badges, we hope it gets people to actually do the learning.

Conditions: Plato from the 70’s – a game called Tenure. The premise of Tenure was: this is your first year as a highschool teacher. Can you get through it?

Design pattern: emergence. With simple building blocks and tools you construct something large than the usual parts.  Like Civ or SimCity.

Transformation vs. Engagement

Gamification hopes to capture more and more attention, while game design wants to capture a small bit of that attention to reshape the player’s behavior.

Engagement: Trying to build subscriptions and views to a small town newspaper through badges and such.

Transformation: Animal Crossing as an example. Learning about mortgages and earning income…

Design pattern: the importance of role play.  We are all constantly role-playing all the time, especially when we are learning. That’s where we role-play our future self. Good game design lets us play a version of ourselves where we know more than we do.

Relationship vs. Reward

Reward: Bluewolf as an example…extrinsic rewards that someone asks you to do.

Relationship: Bejewled.  Offers far more reasons to return to it – it’s always going to be there to give you a consistent and reliable distraction. That’s the promise of bejeweled.  It’s a relationship.  Chess—you could devote your life to it.  There’s always something new that the game gives back.

Loyalty programs are not really about relationship.

Design pattern: kinship…good games are things you have an affinity for, that you want to return to.

Discourse vs. quantification

Games are more about qualitative experience rather than quantification.

Quantification: Salesforce has a leaderboard and how much you’ve brought in for enumerating the experience of working a sales job.  Getting a number out of our actions to measure against ourselves, our coworkers or our competitors.

Discourse: Points of Entry Game.  Took the legislation (which was essentially a points incentive program for immigration) – so in the game, you would pit immigrants against each other. So  you could experience what it would feel like to be an immigrant. The aim was to enter into your world-view and give you something to discuss.

Design pattern: deliberation. Give you something to consider and then decide how you’re going to incorporate it into your world.   That’s how you know if a game is good—if you want to talk about it.  If you play the game and have a conversation about immigration…games are not measurement tools, they’re more like creativity and films and novels…to consider the topics they present in different contexts.

Understanding vs. Compliance

Compliance: Hygenix – a wrist band in hospitals to get workers to comply with frequent handwashing. Feedback loops to drive compliance. Like the Prius dashboard that helps us drive in a more fuel efficient manner.

Understanding: Killer Flu game – game about the spread of the flu and how the seasonal flu operates. When you play a game like this, it’s helping you understand the underlying decisions—why your choices matter regarding washing your hands frequently.

Design pattern: Process. Games give us an experience of the depth and not just the surface.  Feedback is only useful if you understand what it really means. The game shows you the operation of the system and how it really works (e.g., a game on congressional redistricting).

The Design Patterns represent some of the key properties underlying game design—and what to consider with learning.  Something worth pursuing.

Don't sugar coat our work with games….we don’t want to sweeten the taste of our work, we want to treat them seriously.

The principles/design patterns – give us a way to express this and pursue different aspects of our jobs. To deepen our understanding of our work, not sweeten it.  

He shares that people from the general public have emailed, wanting to play the Coldstone Training Game. They want to experience it.  We are genuinely curious.

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