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.

Bullet time:

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.

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:

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.