As the use of information technology continues to spread, and become uniform with our everyday lives, so do the distractions that go along with it. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all spent a few hours here or there playing games. Many might consider this time “wasted”, so what are we really getting out of it? For some, it might be relaxation, the completion of a goal, simply for completion. A perceived success, to fulfill our basic human need for fulfillment. For others, it may be a form of expression, or creativity. An interesting trend that has developed, is the use of games in ways that can lead to productive, or directly useful results.
An example of this idea was put to the test in a web application called DuoLingo. In this free software, you can play easy, interactive games to learn, or enhance the learning of a second language. In an independent study, it was shown that with dedicated, and regular use of the app, a “student” could be as successful as if attending a college level language course(and typically in less time DuoLingo Study).
One Public School in New York City takes this approach, and applies it to their entire curriculum in a bold step towards rethinking the education process. QuestToLearn “supports a uniquely vibrant learning community that brings together students, educators, game designers, curriculum specialists and parents. This community is committed to student success with a singular focus, but also recognizes that student success ultimately depends on the commitment of each and every community member to his or her own continuous learning and participation.”
You probably have or have at least have heard of Facebook, the biggest social platform in the world. But have you noticed that it uses a system of gamification facilitate it’s use? Friend count, likes, pokes, and actual Facebook gaming platforms, are just some of the ways in which Facebook get’s it’s users engaged, and enthralled. Other sites like twitter and Stack Overflow use points and badge systems to keep incentivise users to stay or become active.
While gamification can be used to help the spread of knowledge, and information, there have also been incidences where it’s actually been used to solve problems, and create new knowledge. A game called FoldIt designed out of the University of Washington used a crowd-sourcing game to find more efficient ways of folding proteins. A science paper published in Nature magazine states that the results from the game actually outperformed algorithmically computed solutions.
While much debate is still going on about the true nature, benefits, and deficits of gamification, it is a trend which will only increase with the continued development of electronic informational technology.