Brains, dungeons & gamification

Human brains have a natural tendency to arrange their surroundings into something coherent. Order means predictability , and this implies a greater possibility of control.

Following this idea, the first time our brain faces something new (doesn’t matter whether physical, interpersonal or conceptual), our first interaction will settle the cognitive and emotional bases of successive encounters with objects or ideas susceptible of getting into the same "brain department ".

This simple idea has powerful implications in our life. Take Akalabeth for example. For those who do not know, this esoteric name refers to one of the first computer-based RPGs that received mass distribution (outside the closed frameset of university computer networks) in the late seventies and early eighties.

Akalabeth - Starting screen
Crowds of players (many with previous experience in board games or D&D) came to computer role-play gaming for the first time thanks to this creation.

Akalabeth had a leveling progression system for the player’s character (instead of progression and skill trees, for example ), includes a store where replenish resources and level up (not automatic leveling ), a powerful orientation towards hack & slash and dungeon crawl as game mechanics (for the uninitiated, this means exploring for treasures while eliminating enemies ) and a number of features that , consciously or unconsciously , would provide the “golden rules” for the 80% of the computer-based RPG products that will be developed over the next twenty years.

Same way, certain disciplines set some basic concepts that are not tested and are accepted as intrinsic to the discipline itself. In my professional trade: " the employee is the most important resource" or catches like that, are sometimes said as an undeniable sentence. I think some of these axioms make simplistic models that do not respond to the real needs of organizations and individuals.

But I’m drifting...

Where I'm going with this, friends of the gamification movement?

Evangelists , supporters and general users of this fantastic methodology we call gamification have before us a huge responsibility . This way of generating meaningful experiences drink from ancient sciences, but it is relatively new in its configuration. The choices we make about "what is or is not" gamification and the emphasis we put on some techniques over others, the expectations we create and the results we get will most likely define the way the general public sees the discipline and the way professionals will design future projects. This is specially true as “Gamification” approaches its particular "peak of inflated expectations" ( which I think we will live here in Spain to the end of the 2014, tops) .

Let's evolve gamification... with awareness!

Level up or skills up? (Or both?)
I propose the simple exercise of focusing your thoughts to what it might entail, for example, an overemphasis on the " game elements " by rejecting games or video games as part of gamification tools, what will implies a disproportionate weight on certain game mechanics over others or what could generate an imbalance between the creative and the analytical focus on projects… or the lack of a common language as stepping stone for the development of the discipline.

I think 2013 (and especially the 2014) we will be creating our unique Alkalabeth , probably defining our way of perceiving gamification for the next years to come. Settings the perception rules for the use of playfulness at motivating people, designing education or marketing products.

Akalabeth opened an exciting world of possibilities, but the game begins with a warning: "Attentive mortal!"...

Gamification fellows, are we up to this challenge, above commercial interests and egos?

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