19 December 2010

Not-a-gamer engaged in playing a game

I'm hooked on Angry Birds because it's a well-designed game. It engages me--someone who generally snubs gaming as a lower form of something-to-do. Read a book; keep a blog; play a musical instrument; build a model in Second Life.

A recent aha led me to understand the literature on and practice of gaming and game design more fully. The aha was framed by a critique of gamification--integrating game dynamics into a web site or service/product to drive a behavior (e.g. participation, buying).

The first half of the aha confirmed why I hate all the rewards-based commerce relentlessly nagging me to play. This is gamification. It's not fun; it's a pain in the ass and a waste of time. But it's not a game either. Gamification doesn't typically utilize game mechanics, it just acts as if it does. And when you play it you quickly lose interest because rewards are not the same as achievement. 

The second half of the aha had to do with intrinsic/extrinsic motivation. To my mind, games were extrinsically motivating, even well-designed ones, because I had mistaken rewards for achievement. Achievement is intrinsically motivating; it's about mastery.

I still think playing a musical instrument or building a 3D model are higher quality forms of something-to-do. But this might be because I value the play of creativity and the arts over the play of mass-marketed entertainment.