10 - Gamification 2020: What The Future Holds
Burke returns to the concept of "inflated expectations" about technology - and repeats that the gamification fad is approaching the peak, after which there will be a period of disillusionment. This seems inevitable - but with luck the concept will survive, and after the mania dies down, some will take a more sober approach, perhaps calling it by a different name to dissociate themselves from the failure of the past. There is value to be gained in gamification, but it will not be achieved by the manic and foolhardy approach that we see in the present day.
Even in the present state of exuberance and imitation, there are a few bright spots - he expects that Khan Academy, Nike, and Quirky are firms that will stand the test of time and demonstrate what gamification is capable of doing when it is thoughtfully executed. Foursquare, whom he considers to be "the original standard-bearer for gamification" will also stand the test.
To put a stake in the ground, consider what the world will be like in 2020: technologies that are emerging today will take root. Computing will be more aware of its user and the needs. All the devices will be linked to share information on you. They will know where you are and what you are doing, and will learn your patterns over time and become more predictive and proactive. It will become less of a passive servant and more of a proactive director to the user.
(EN: These same predictions have been made for years, and it always seems on the cusp of coming to fruition. The technology to do these things has been around for at least a decade, and what's missing is a change in attitudes and behaviors - the willingness to give permission to devices to know so much about us and infiltrate our lives to such a degree. I don't sense that is changing, as even the "tech-friendly" Millennial generation balks and opts-out when devices get too invasive. But I would concede it is possible in future for our culture to change to be less independent and more trusting in systems and those that own them.)
In future, gamification will continue to evolve - it will change, but in turn it will be changed by other technologies and practices. In particular, technologies such as gesture control, emotion detection, head-mounted displays, credentialing, and augmented reality will extend the capabilities available to gamification.
As such, the possibilities for gamification depend heavily on the evolution of supporting technologies. To be certain, each new technology will be experimented with - and a lot of mistakes will be made on the way to finding solutions that users will value.
The Democratization of Learning
Education is one area in which gamification has the potential to have an impact, and this includes both formal and informal education such as on-the-job training and how-to instruction for leisure activities. Games teach skills, so it's a natural match.
- Games engage students in learning. They allow theories to be modeled and skills to be practiced in a safe and non-threatening environment. Currently, this is not being done very well, but more sophisticated design approaches can make this more effective and less of a gimmick.
- Technology decentralizes learning. One of the great advantage of the internet and mobile is that the student doesn't have to go to a school to learn, but the school is available to the student in any location. The current quality of online education is lacking, but this too is something that good course design can overcome.
- Technology provides certification. The process of validating skills learned and degrees earned is presently rather cumbersome (to contact a university and validate a degree is still largely a paper process). That may change, though it will depend again on the quality of online education. To get a certificate for completing a course means little when the value of online courses remains questionable. A meaningful, reliable, and valid method of certification is under development.
The value of democratized education is that people in general will become smarter and more capable - which is of value to employers in general. (EN: this cannot be denied, but because democratized education is valued "in general" no-one "in specific" wants to foot the bill for creating quality education online, so everyone expects someone else to foot the bill and provide it for free. This far, what's free has not been particularly good. An industry coalition or generous sponsorship might help this along, but efforts have been random and disparate thus far.)
Tackling Social Problems with Stakeholder Power
There has been some consideration of social problems, those that do not have a clear scientific or technical solution that can be validated by demonstration, but have a behavior problem that must be validated by compliance. Political issues within and among nations are a good example - policymakers do some rather foolish things, and people are generally not supportive of legislation into which they had little input, and which makes their lives more difficult. Social problems also include things such as climate change, sustainability, drug trafficking, and the like, which arise because of the behavior of people who simply ignore policies set by others.
Martin suggests gamification is a potential solution because the problems largely resemble a game scenario: there is a desired outcome that people may work to achieve, or work to prevent others from achieving, and the people involved cannot be forced by rules to comply - but they may perhaps be motivated (not ordered) to compete by gamification, which provides rewards for positive behavior.
Naturally, politics is the principle barrier to moving forward. Politics attempts, by threat of punishment, to compel some people to do that which others wish them to do - whether constraining behavior that would be harmful to their interests or compelling behavior that is helpful to their interests. Those who stand to profit are always interested in controlling others, but those who work without profit are seldom interested in submitting to this control. Moreover, government is the current mechanism by which people seek to control others, and has its own interests (perpetuating and expanding its influence), and may actively discourage this from being done without them.
Martin concedes that there have only been small initiatives in this regard thus far.
- San Francisco is using a gamified solution to capture ideas for community improvement projects and engaging citizens in volunteering their time to community service
- Porto Alegre in Brazil makes their budgeting processes transparent and gives the community more direct input by voting on allocations.
- Finland's "open ministry" enables ordinary citizens to propose laws, which the legislation will consider if they can get the support of 50,000 other citizens
These are admittedly small steps, but they are in the direction of using technology to give the public more direct involvement in their governments.
Your Smartphone Becomes Your Personal Coach
Another trend the author notices is that people are using their smartphones as reminder services that help them achieve goals. There are applications that coach people to eat healthier foods, exercise more often, spend more wisely, take their medications, and other tasks. Based on this, he expects that the number of things that a smartphone will coach people to do will increase.
Additional technological advances can further the device's ability to be used:
- Kinesthetic Detection - The ability of a device to read the position of the user's body is necessary to coach form. Whether this is coaching the user to perform fitness exercises properly or coaching them to hold a tool properly, the ability to observe the movements of the body opens an array of coaching possibilities.
- Emotion Detection - Computers will likewise become more adept at reading human emotions by listening for stress in a person's voice, analyzing facial expressions, recognizing gestures and posture, and other emotional clues. This will enable devices to become more effective, increasing challenges for players who seem bored or coaching when players seem flustered.
- Augmented Reality - Another technology that has been promised for years has been the ability to overlay a real-world scene with text and graphics to provide additional information. The problem thus far has been the need to use a device, but when head-mounted displays (such as Google Glass) become popular, the AR layer can be always available.
Burke mentions that there are organizations, such as nonprofits, insurance firms, and even government agencies that are highly interested in being able to monitor and record the physical movements of people and send them messages to correct their behavior in real time.
Conclusion: Rethinking Motivation
In essence, technology improves the human being by externalizing certain functions that have traditionally been physical actions, but are increasingly mental functions (calculation and memory) and social functions (being connected to others through technology). As such we are not as limited by the capabilities and capacities of our mind, and to the social contacts available in our immediate environment.
And while technology gives us additional means to achieve our needs and desires, the needs and desires have not changed much. Man has wanted and needed the very same things for tens of thousands of years - he has used technology to be more efficient and effective at achieving it.
As for gamification, it is merely a methodology to achieve goals - to define a desired end and track progress towards its achievement, celebrating milestones along the way - as a means to help people remain focused on what they want to achieve. So long as man has goals, particularly long-term goals that require periodic effort (which explains an increasing number of goals in the modern world), there will be a place for gamification.
And that is Burke's parting shot: gamification is about motivation - helping others to achieve their goals - and if you understand that, then you are thinking about it in the appropriate way.