Degamification

SPEAKER: Andi McClure

ABSTRACT:
“Gamification” is a widely-discussed catchphrase (with an active marketing campaign presenting it as a new and revolutionary idea) for the idea of applying ideas from video games to social or commercial systems outside games. This talk will look at how gamification has been applied in practice and argue that gamification as applied tends to pick only certain elements from the game medium— specifically those elements which are addictive or promote “engagement”, rather than those which are instructive or joyous. The argument will be that these particular elements are not only undesirable in both games and social systems, but already ubiquitous in our society. For example a simple and often-seen way to apply gamification to a real-world system is to add a score, or artificial goal points such as “levels” and “achievements”. However our entire society is already based on a system of labor where people’s lives are oriented around scores (money) and theoretically progressively increasing levels (job titles and promotions). In other words making such a change to a system is not actually gamifying it but simply making it more capitalist.

The goal is to then to turn things around and introduce a concept of “degamification”— looking at social systems and asking what it would be like to intentionally *remove* resemblances to the naive notion of games frequently applied in gamification. The real goal is to then turn this idea on video games itself and ask what it would look like to degamify games, and whether this would constitute in fact an improvement. Some examples will be given from my own work, with a focus on “BECOME A GREAT ARTIST IN JUST 10 SECONDS” and the work that lead up to it. GREAT ARTIST was treated as fairly significant in some quarters, and I repeatedly received indications other people had been inspired by it to create game works they wouldn’t have otherwise. However, ARTIST doesn’t really *do* very much. ARTIST is an extremely simple program and the thing which makes it interesting or a starting point for other work is mostly what it *doesn’t* do, i.e., it doesn’t shoehorn in conventional video game structures that would ultimately distract from the interactive system at the program’s core. The works leading up to ARTIST were mostly a process of giving myself permission to not force these elements in. People inspired by it were probably actually being inspired to give themselves that same permission to free themselves of the “game” form.

Works like ARTIST or Icosa or the abstract exploration works by Strangethink or Nuprahtor hint that “games” are one small corner of a much richer and more interesting space. For whatever reason though it is hard to simply leap into that inchoate space. Starting with the straw man of “gamification” and intentionally moving away from it seems to suggest one path into that larger space.

SPEAKER BIO:
Andi McClure has been making independent games and game frameworks since 2008. Her work explores the intersection of games, art software, and computation; many of her games are based around setting up a mathematical or mechanical system and encouraging the user to just play with it. “BECOME A GREAT ARTIST IN JUST 10 SECONDS”, a glitch-art tool made in collaboration with Michael Brough, was an official selection at the Indiecade festival, and was a finalist at the 2015 Independent Game Festival awards. Andi has also curated games by transgender artists for the San Jose Transgender Day of Visibility event for the last several years. Her current project is Emily, a programming language designed for simplicity and expressiveness which is intended to have applications to games and creative code.