Turning our humdrum lives into a game
One of the buzzwords that’s circling boardrooms and blogs is ‘gamification’.
It’s an acknowledgment that it’s hard to get people to care about banking or washing powder, or even emotionally potent things like films or cars.
Everything we have, we come by in a fairly undramatic way: by hard work, certainly, but generally by walking into a shop and proffering cash.
Most of us in the developed world have the luxury of boredom. When things are easy, we don’t care very deeply about them. And so we yearn for excitement.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell said: “Civilized life has altogether grown too tame and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.”
What better way to do that than by constructing a world that offers a modulated experience of risk and some sort of reward?
There are examples of gamification done with flair, creating nail-biting tension, like Mini’s Getaway, where people chased a virtual Mini around Stockholm using their mobiles, competing against other wannabe car thieves.
Or the Steal Banksy campaign, a game of strategy and cunning where would-be thieves pitted their wits against vigilant Art Hotel staff to make off with a valuable painting.
Even the Weight Watchers point system or Nike’s Fuelband introduce an element of play to the business of diet and exercise.
Where this idea starts to go awry is when people jump on to the bandwagon without understanding what gamification delivers.
The purpose is not to pretend that something is more exciting than it truly is, but to build interesting mechanics into the day-to-day.
Gamification is an escape from the mundane, creating an experience that lets us forget we’re bill paying automatons. It makes us feel the thrill of the wildness we once inhabited.
Cathie McGinn is a journalist for Encore and Mumbrella.
- This article first appeared in Encore magazine. Download the iPad edition, now free.