Gamification – Game On?!?

Chess GameGamification of climate change is the latest effort by Al Gore  to help those of us who are myopically focused on the daily-ness of life to look up and realize that our life support system (the Earth) needs our help.

Gamification is what it sounds like. It is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems.

I was so excited when I heard that Al Gore had come up with a way to make learning about climate change fun. I mean, games are fun, right? I had spent a few years in Second Life teaching 3D shoe building and had been suckered into writing reviews on Yelp to gain points and badges, I’m a target audience for winning the climate change battle.

And, this is where my idea of gaming and Al Gore’s nonprofit, Climate Reality Project’s  game, Reality Drop, diverge. There is no epic battle. There are points but for cutting and pasting facts into posts online. More like writing a research paper than having fun. Ok, maybe writing a research paper IS fun for some people, but I have to say, not the majority.

What’s interesting is that game developer Jane McGonigal believes gamification can help the world too and has been tied to Al Gore’s gamification efforts even though she doesn’t think much of Reality Drop. She tweeted “I have to say this is pretty much the most uninspiring example of gamification I’ve seen and from Al Gore no less “ on Feb 28th. Ouch. 

Jane’s TED talk (worth watching) looks at the positive aspects of gaming and how we should try to bring those into everyday life. She notes the positive aspects of gaming include:

  1. Urgent optimism – anything is possible
  2. Tight social fabric – like playing with people you can trust
  3. Blissful Productivity – happier working hard than hanging out
  4. Epic Meaning – awe-inspiring missions.

That’s what we need an awe-inspiring mission and collaborative problem solving. The challenge seems to be that we need to make learning and changing our habits fun. Jane McGonigal tried to accomplish that with her World Without Oil pilot game, with the tagline “Play it – before you live it.” It was live for 33 days.

While there are some game-like options out there such as CarbonRally, Practically Green and Recycle Bank, none of them  you’d want to spend hours playing. Will a game emerge that will change our habits enough to counter climate change? We’ll see. There are some good minds working on it.

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