Gamification of Experience

(Zichermann, 2011)
Since the question “Is there an app for that?” was first uttered, after the iPhone’s App Store was released in 2008, more people are using their smart phones to gamify their experience.  The demand for more game content in unorthodox places – industries not classically thought of in relation to games – is a result of successes that have occurred post the development of the app in our social consciousness. In other words, no longer is the classic modality of game making and marketing only confined to the genre loving, story oriented or achievement absorbed “player.”  Because of the iPhone’s App Store success, game developers have extended their reach, and their thinking, to include many types of people and the different industries that appeal to their disparate interests.

This trend toward marketing games, or game culture, to a broader audience couldn’t have expanded as rapidly as it did without the aid of a versatile invention like a smart phone. The number one example emphasized by Mia Consalvo, in her work called Slingshot to Victory,  being the iPhone. Consalvo maintains (2012) the implication that experience is being more gamified throughout her work. She does this by showing that the iPhone and subsequent creations offered in the App Store, like Angry Birds, have “redefined the audience for games, created new forms of gameplay, and changed how games are marketed and sold.” (Consalvo, p. 185) Two aspects that helped games like Angry Birds become accessible to a broader audience were its price and its simplicity. Consalvo claims that one of the aspects that helped non-traditional gamers embrace Angry Birds’ simplicity was the fact that it was offered in both a free, limited version and a paid version that only cost 99 cents. (p. 190) She points out that the way in which Angry Birds achieves its simplicity is with its polished design, an ability to be played in shorter moments, and has mechanics that can be picked up without much prior game literacy. (p. 190-191) These shorter moments of gameplay, which she describes as interstitial, can be played at moments formerly defined for the drudging or mundane tasks, like standing in lines, riding on public transportation, or waiting. In this respect, games like Angry Birds have started to replace or fill in our passive moments of experience with a game.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 9.16.30 PM

 

(Rovio, 2009)

Whereas Consalvo’s arguments seems to reflect this trend toward the gamification of people’s experience due to mobile technologies, Katz and Acord seemed to fall short (2008) in recognizing how important mobile technologies are becoming to our culture. Not only do they take too broad of a stance, statistically, by defining entire countries by one core mobile gaming habit, they also seem to see games, and their use, as defined by strata. (Katz & Acord, p. 407) The firm, defined lines of hardcore gamer versus casual gamer versus social gamer are becoming blurred only five years after Katz and Acord’s work because of media and cultural convergence resulting in gamification of many types of people.  Since the development of the App Store in these last few years, the average person, as opposed to just the average gamer, is becoming more gamified. Depending on a person’s interests, attributes of all three Katz and Acord strata can be found in the experience of many. You can find hardcore Candy Crush players in non-traditional gamers, devoted first person shooter gamers casually playing Angry Birds in their down time, and a variety of people engaging with social games in many other aspects of life through Facebook. However, Katz and Acord should be lauded for recognizing that gender is not playing virtually any of a factor when it comes to which types of people are playing games (p 414). Men and Women alike are embracing game culture. Although, I feel this is occurring primarily because so many games these days are masked by the form of an app that is perceived to enhance a process, hobby or habit already maintained by people.

For instance, recently I downloaded Zombies, Run!, a zombie themed fitness app. Zombies, Run! ties into a website called Zombielink. With an account based service, users of the app can track their fitness through Zombielink by playing a Farmville-esque game using tracked stats compiled by the runs after they are completed. What this sets up for non-traditional gamers is a meta relationship with their current habit of “fitness” that results in a game, as opposed to outright describing the app from a marketing standpoint as a game for fitness. Additionally, the app guarantees the unlocking of achievements over time with subsequent runs. This is an example of what this looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 7.55.48 PM

 

(Alderman & Six to Start, 2011)

This feature is very similar to the achievement and rewards system that was developed for, and seen more commonly with, Foursquare. In the Foursquare app, users can “check-in” to locations. With the locative aspects to Foursquare comes various types of achievements on an achievement page, which is as follows:

Foursquare

(Foursquare, 2009)

As people “check-in” to locations, they are essentially playing a game that rewards with constant use. Some of these rewards are not restricted to digital rewards only. After the release of Foursquare, businesses adapted over time a policy of rewarding “players” of Foursquare who received “King” status. King status means you are the person who checked in the most at that location. To businesses, they see it as away to encourage repeat patronage. Examples of types of rewards that I’ve seen at locations were free coffee at a coffee shop and gift cards for products if a person can prove they’ve checked-in more than others.

In conclusion, many people are being gamified as games are being produced to align with their current habits. With increasing subterfuge, more and more companies are hiring game developers to produce meta apps, apps associated with their products, that gamify their product by adding features like Foursquare’s “check-in,” for example. Additionally, more and more game developers are not restricting their game development to producing content only for those who are classically defined as gamers. The problem with Katz and Acord’s argument was primarily due to a short sighted view of who can be gamified. Mia Consalvo’s argument that apps, such as Angry Birds, are making traditional games simple and cheap is more on point to the convergence that’s occurring between gaming and non-gaming culture resulting in a more gamified culture. Games like Angry Birds are making it simple for non-traditional gamers to play games. By asking “Is there an app for that?,” in many examples, the question should be translated to read: “Is there a game for my current habit?” The answer to this question usually results in some kind of game for anybody to embrace.

 

References

Alderman, N., & Six to Start (2012, February 27). Screenshot of Zombie Link [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.zombiesrungame.com/standupphilosopher/achievements/

Consalvo, M. (2012). Slingshot to Victory. Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, 184-193. Retrieved from https://mobmed14.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/consalvo-mia-slingshot-to-victory.pdf

Foursquare (2009, March 11). Screenshot of Foursquare app on iPhone [Photograph].

Katz, J. E., & Acord, S. K. (2008). Mobile Games and Entertainment. Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, 403-415. Retrieved from https://mobmed14.wordpress.com/readings/

Rovio (2009, December). Screenshot of Angry Birds [Photograph].

Zichermann, G. (2011, June 9). TEDxKids@Brussels – Gabe Zichermann – Gamification [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2N-5maKZ9Q

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