ENGAGE | Gamification

Posted on 06/07/2011


I’ve just been reading an article from The Guardian titled ‘Gamification for the public good’. While described as the ‘next big thing’ in organisational and community dynamics, gamification is derived from sound theoretical foundations, such as game theory. Cut through the hype and we might appreciate that a process (rather than an end) like gamification has something to offer our communities and cities, though I am not completely convinced that so much in the world can be gamified. The article stresses some key principles which are well aligned to some foundational thinking about public participation:

1. Rapid feedback cycles (What if your NFP Board effectively provided rapid feedback on your organisation’s program and policy rather than waited for annual reviews, and so effectively developed the helix of long and short term thinking and planning? What if people participating in urban planinng and design processes, which are inherently slow, received some kind of indication about how their input might change a situation for the better e.g. if we took your suggestion, it would result in a percentage decrease in carbon emissions?)
2. Setting clear goals and well defined rules which facilitate the achievement of objectives (I consistently hear from people that they have lost faith in consultation processes because they feel like it is a box ticking exercise. Ticking boxes is boring; having a perceptible impact for the general good is satisfying. What if the objectives of these exercises were more broadly owned and achievable by all those involved?)
3. A compelling narrative (Narrative and design meet to storify the future of a place, city or community. What if, as with my city of Brisbane, we wanted to redefine what it means to be a world city?)
4. Set challenges (Setting challenges, doesn’t mean setting obstacles. How many times have you been encouraged and supported to solve a problem and address serious issues rather than just voice an opinion – where is the combination of social learning, crowdsourcing and cognitive surplus that brings us closer to meeting short term challenges?)

When I think about tools like Green Star, I can’t help but think there’s a gamification potential here, a way of realising tools that continue to engage people and practitioners in a bigger vision and project. When I think of the way consultations seem to end after asking ‘what do you think about it?’, my heart sinks. This consideration of gamification (as an interaction, communication and experience based process) might be able to bring meaning back into processes of consultation by thinking about the relationship between goals, actions and principles. In the first instance, it shifts consultation into a more participatory space. Like I’ve said before, it shifts engagement to engamement. However, it really does have to be meaningful.

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