Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou