It’s been months since I last wrote stuff about gamification. For months, I am stuck to write about games because while I was planning to use the blog to repeat and intrepret what I learn from sources I follow about gamification. Seeing every game and game element in daily life brought different approaches about games. In the end, I had a topic which would be a sociological approach to gaming, then Some events drove me to write about something simpler: Which / Whose game are you playing?
I was a child that had limited number of toys. It was a great experience for me to go for a visit to friends of my parents because they were keys to reach new toying and gaming experiences. While it was sometimes sad to play with a toy that will “turn to a pumpkin” near midnight, having friends and playing addictive games with them meant a lot. But there were some children among them that I both liked and disliked to play. They had great toys but they were trying to put all the rules for playing. What I could do was accept those rules and try to beat the nasty child despite having great disadvantages to win. But the unfair rules did not end up here, some of these nasty children were manipulating the game during the playing or if you scored, for instance, they objected and refused your taking the point. Well, I don’t remember having a proud moment that I won despite all disadvantages.
So that may come true in real life. You may be playing a game, you accept to play despite starting disadvantaged but you believe that the victory is greater because you don’t only beat the opponent but you also beat the game itself. And once you start playing, somebody intervenes and modify the rules such that it becomes impossible to win.
How about afterwards? I started hearing abusive, disgracing, humiliating words about my game performance. It ended up with my being angry or with a fight. Worse than that, just guess who behaved less fair when both/either parents asked about what happened?
I believe that we still live this circle on and on. As long as the rules of the game change to a direction that some people never win as some other people always win, what develops in such places are manipulators, not players. So, this makes a distinction with the idea given in the blog below:
Mr. Streck pointed out that rulers come out of killers. While this is totally influential and a good approach, I must say that a detail is missing. You may state that a game exists if it has pre-defined rules. Manipulation of rules can be read as passion to score and win, but I think if the rules are spoiled and manipulative, then either you are not playing a game or you are playing a game that you are unaware of all the rules of it. Formally yes, you are playing a game but is a game fair if its rules work differently for different players? I believe not.
This approach seems valid for serious games and gamification projects. While you design such projects, you will have a risk that the model you work on has conflict with the system you are trying to gamify or build a game on. You’ll lose focus if you try to modify your project to the situation because your project should stand on feet of rules while the system itself may be existent for “handling” things differently. Of course this is not a problem if your project is meant to exist only, but this leads us to a place where games and gamification projects lose side in the game of existence.
Now tell me again: Which/Whose game are you playing?
“Not at all,” said the general. “I never joke about hunting. I needed a new animal. I found one. So I bought this island built this house, and here I do my hunting. The island is perfect for my purposes–there are jungles with a maze of traits in them, hills, swamps–”
from “the Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell