In my opinion, gamification is the most genuinely interesting buzzword of recent years. Its effects on user experiences are felt across educational applications, productivity applications – virtually everywhere that was not already a game. I perceive the rise in popularity of gamification to coincide with the rise in casual gaming that followed ubiquity of smartphones. This shift is illustrated by Jenkin’s (2006) work, “Fans, bloggers, and gamers: Exploring participatory culture”, where he explains that “fans” are an archaic concept. Users are now directly involved with content production and dissemination – and if they want to gamify banal tasks, they surely will.
Persuasive Games’s Ian Bogost, the developer of such hits as Fatworld and Cow Clicker, understands the phenomenon under these games better than anyone. The most bewildering part of these games is that you are not doing anything cool. There are no cars, spaceships, or Italians racing; there is no flying, building, or sexual release like the non-objective-based Second Life can afford. Users literally go through the motions simply sustaining another version of their existence in a farm, a diet, an airport, etc. The idea that this is enjoyable – or even falls under the definition of a “game” – could alternatively illustrate technological determinism. In other words, our devices now dictate what we classify as “fun”, not the other way around.
In either perspective, it is undeniable that using technology in this way is changing mediated communication. Now more than ever, we are awarded achievements for connecting with others, and level-up by furnishing corporations with more information and people. Whether this power will tip more towards today’s interactive audience, or big data and corporations, remains to be seen.