Friday, 8 March 2013

Don't talk to me about gamification

A recent piece on the BBC's news website has left by stunned by the number of ways it managed to irritate me. How did it irritate me? Let me count the ways:

  1. The title tells us that Fun and games 'can save the planet' - I'm already cringing. It is clear to anyone with half a brain cell that fun and games cannot undo the environmental mess we're in, and as I keep saying to the point of being boring, there is no question of saving the planet. The planet is not at risk. It can shrug off anything we can do to it in a few million years - no time at all for something 4.5 billion years old. What we are concerned with is saving human civilisation.
  2. In then tells us that A project has been launched to see whether games can help increase people's interest in environmental issues. - whoopie do. I'm thrilled. It sounds like the sort of study that may well come back with the answer 'Yes' after its 12 month period. But if it does, it will be a matter of folly, because I can guarantee you that games won't change the world. And there's quite a disconnect between increasing interest in environmental issues and 'saving the planet' (sic).
  3. Apparently the idea is to make use of 'gamification' which is 'using the concepts and and mechanics of games but in a non-gaming environment' as we are informed by 'consultant' Paula Owen. Pardon me while I barf. 'Gamification?' Leaving aside a word that clearly should be pronounced gam-ification, this is a mind bogglingly inane concept.
  4. The gamification (groan) aspect will be to enhance engagement with those who have not engaged with environmental issues in the past because it had "all been a bit guilt-filled and full of doom and gloom". Give me strength. So by putting gaming style activities into the workplace, say, we are supposed to find that those who find the environment a depressing topic will suddenly realise it is fun. Yes, well, don't hold your breath Dr Owen.
  5. To make things even more fun (could they be?) the idea will be to use actual games with an environmental flavour such as Play Your Eco-Cards Right and Eco-Snakes and Ladders. That'll do the trick.
Of course this kind of thing is easy to mock. I just have. In a sense there's a sort of logic behind it - people might engage more with the environment if things are presented in a fun way. This logic is called 'lowest common denominator' or 'dumbing down.' This is an approach that works quite well with junior school children, but is treated somewhat cynically by many secondary school children and really is not the right way to go with adults. Unless you are Channel 5 News.

Frankly, the reason those unengaged people find it 'all a bit guilt filled and full of doom and gloom' is that this is a fair picture if you are going to be honest, rather than come across all Pollyanna. We do feel guilty, both because each of is in a small way responsible, and also because individually we can do very little. We should, frankly, be extremely worried, if not full of doom and gloom, and inspired to get things happening on a large scale. But to think that trivializing the issue and making it 'fun' can somehow change anything is naive in the extreme. And no doubt is using up taxpayers' money that could be spent more usefully.

This has been a green heretic production.

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