Gamification and the Existential Crisis

A long time ago, before you were born (if you were born in 2010), there was a man named Jesse Schell. Jesse had a vision for the future he shared with everyone in a talk called “Design Outside the Box”.

Gotta tell you, this was early on in the days of “gamification” and people thought it was beautiful. I even thought it was beautiful. Now, after years of seeing the application of meaningless game mechanics to arbitrary concepts, I’m jaded.

Here’s the crux of the issue: points and progress bars are put into games because they provide us an understanding of how we are doing in context. They’re an assignation of meaning. You can’t just add progress bars to life and expect meaning. Unless you choose to live in that dystopian reality.

We crave tangible proof that what we do matters, and that’s why we love stories. Stories are proof that we are not alone in our search for understanding and acceptance. Because ultimately, we can’t prove that anything we do actually matters, so we have to rationalize that to ourselves somehow.

I present, for your enjoyment (or not, whatever), my commentary IF game.

*Gamification and the Existential Crisis*

Little plug for Twine here. Twine is awesome. hosts twine games free.

One thought on “Gamification and the Existential Crisis

  1. Danielle

    Upon listening to Mr. Schell’s talk from that year, it surely sounded like an interesting idea and concept worth putting into practice. But now in 2016 and upon reevaluation, I imagine users expect more out of their content than just gaining a point over the everyday activities. I totally agree that by simply applying points and progress bars to just about anything leaves little room for significance. The best usage for points and progress bars is if it’s going to contribute to the game’s purpose, story and narrative in a way players are getting the most out of their time. I think you phrased it perfectly in your commentary IF game: “So many rewards. It’s worth it, isn’t it? Or is every day just a repetitive march into a seemingly trivial existence?” It sounds more like the emphasis goes to a fruitless competition with friends just to get or have more.

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