Press Play for Research
Gamification is concerned with game elements that crop up where we least expect them – at work, in health care, at school and in training programs. Since 2013, the Gamification Lab investigates the aesthetic, ethical and political implications of gamification and works on innovative formats of ‘gamified’ apps, civic technology, and socially aware intervention with ludic methods.
When gamification became a trendy topic around 2010, it was said to be a potentially revolutionary method for creating social awareness, solving health problems and achieving new forms of user and consumer engagement. In 2011, however, critics pronounced gamification “bullshit” (as game scholar Ian Bogost put it), a buzzword used to sell design, business and marketing consultancies while exploiting the popularity of digital games among broad and varied audiences.
In 2013 Gamification Lab was established as part of the research project Art and Civic Media of the Lüneburg Innovation Incubator. Its mission is to ‘investigate the aesthetic, ethical and political implications of gamification and work on innovative formats of gamified apps’. In other words, the Gamification Lab is concerned from the outset with a thorough examination of gamification as a technique to save the world or as a scam.
Sometimes gamification is only seen as a general approach to creating playful environments in order to attract and retain users. This use of gamification has been attacked from many sides, mostly because it is said to claim more than it actually delivers. Critics are skeptical of the boast that this type of gamification offers unlimited forms of engagement – in civil and social sectors too – and that its scope extends beyond profit-making businesses to include social applications. This perception offers a fairly straightforward understanding of the phenomenon.
Furthermore, gamification can be described as a metaphor for the social and cultural change in which games and playfulness are becoming more and more pervasive. This other kind of gamification looks at the pervasiveness of the playful in our contemporary Western culture as prompted by a complex series of historical events with implications beyond the business sector. This other gamification is the name given to a more complex combination of events, discourses and performances that have transformed games into a form of knowledge.
Seen from the latter perspective, gamification is neither bullshit nor a problem-solving technique. It is instead a discursive formation entangled with many different ways of living in our con- temporary world. This is the kind of gamification the Gamification Lab is trying to re-evaluate in its research. To bridge this gap is the main objective of the Lab’s research linking theoretical considerations with the experimental development of games and apps, game mechanics and gamified environments.