Gamification is Bullshit #gbl

Some interesting points made by Ian Bogost: [thanks Tom Armitage]

In his short treatise On Bullshit, the moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt gives us a useful theory of bullshit. We normally think of bullshit as a synonym—albeit a somewhat vulgar one—for lies or deceit. But Frankfurt argues that bullshit has nothing to do with truth. Rather, bullshit is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, bullshitters have no use for the truth.

All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit.

Gamification is bullshit.

I’m not being flip or glib or provocative. I’m speaking philosophically. More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.

  • Gamification as a term may be a bullshit term but the outcomes from using game based learning principles inside of education have proved to be ideal in some situations.

    Learning games can’t be a bad thing can they? Isn’t that just gamification of learning?

    Is saying gamification is bullshit a bit like saying extrinsic rewards are bullshit?

    Are you familiar with the theory of “replacement”(I think this is what it’s called) which is a bullshit gamification term for when you stop giving extrinsic rewards and ergo the recipient stops being as interested in whatever they were receiving rewards for?

    More questions than answers/comments! Apologies..

  • Have more questions than answers too!

    Basically, I agree with you that game-based learning can be useful. And I’m a not so closet fan of Ender’s game so I’d love it games are useful.

    And yes, though I don’t know it as replacement theory, I know of a problem with extrinsic rewards (mainly via Alfie Kohn’s book)

    I suppose the “gamification is bullshit” piece brought me up short and made me wonder:

    • how rigorous are my decisions are as to how games help? Should I be using something like e.g. the old Serious Games taxonomy to help me decide?
    • is gamification a little bit like a preoccupation with fun. (And if so, is that a good message to be teaching children?)
    • how much (and how) do I track the learning that is going on with the games? For instance, I introduced MangaHigh to the school I work at. It has lots of benefits (engagement, student enthusiasm, even learning!) but the odd comments from parents suggests the more competitive children are more interested in working out how to win than learn.

    And don’t have any answers…

  • Yeah, it is largely bullshit. I’m beginning to favour the term gameful design. But at the end of the day it is all interaction/experience design.