Be a Gamer, Save the World

This article was in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago about the benefits of video games. [Editor’s note – this article is Jane McGonigal in her own words.] Throughout the course so far, Gee and others have argued that the problem solving nature of a good game are beneficial regardless of the actual content of the game. I think this article would agree with that concept; however, the author takes it one step further. She recognizes how videos games are an intrinsic part of modern society, noting that the number of hours world-wide gamers have spent on World of War Craft amounts to 5.93 million years. She then goes on to discuss notable studies that use video games for real life problems such as folding virtual proteins to help cure cancer or Alzheimer’s, or another game that allowed gamers to design and launch their own real world enterprises. She argues that games can be used to solve real life problems through careful design and programming. Already we have seen that games can help us with math, problem solving, flight simulation and several other skills, yet by continuing this trend video games will permeate many other aspects of life. I think that by carefully expanding video game s to more educational concepts, learning can be seen more as fun then actual work. Either way, the adoption of video games for education use will be interesting to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Are games just part of our self-gratification?

I came across this article in this week’s Businessweek:

The article talks about how more and more companies are using “games” on their websites to keep customers coming back.  Though it is not directly related to videogaming, it hits on (though indirectly) a couple of Gee’s princples.  In particular, the Achievement principle.  Just to remind everyone, this key principle is defined as “For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.”

So to bring it back to the article, customers (learners) earn badges, titles, and/or recognition on public leaderboards for things ranging from purchses to comments to feedback.  As quoted from the article:

“The business of engendering online loyalty through gaming techniques is fast becoming as significant as the real-world loyalty industry, which builds rewards programs for airlines, hotels, and credit cards. The difference is that real rewards, like free hotel rooms and airfare, cost businesses real money. Badges and leader boards, excluding fees to consultants like Paharia, cost next to nothing.”

Just another thought that is unrelated to Gee’s 36 principles, is that people are very caught-up in the social image they portray to others, i.e. when facebook alerts all of your friends how many points you scored in farmville, etc.  So maybe social status is perhaps the real motivator here. I guess it is sort of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” debate, but nonetheless here is an excellent quote from the article which sums it up really well:

“We have this tendency to care about what image we portray,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University. In real life, there are mansions and handbags. “In the gaming world,” says Ariely, “there are badges.”

So what do you guys think? Is it the “gaming principles” or “social image portrayal” that lure the customers back to the website?

The Popularity of Angry Birds

For anyone who has not played Angry Birds on an apple product is missing out on possibly the greatest game invented.  If you are someone who is productive with all those extra spare minutes you get, whether that is waiting for an appointment or before class to start and you are able to whip out a few flashcards then I suggest not to continue reading.  Angry Birds may be the best (or worst) thing that has happened to me.  I first saw my brother playing and I thought it was pointless and stupid and could not understand why anyone would dedicate so much time to such a simple game.  However, three weeks later and I am basically as addicted to this game as TMZ is to making awkward nicknames for new couples.  The biggest surprise  about Angry Birds is that the most popular demographic playing this game is men and women in their forties.  Some of the reasons for making this game the most popular app in 2010 is because of its simplicity to complete a level in a quick time period, there is no harm for failing a level, and you can carry it in your pocket and whenever you have two minutes you could be slingshotting birds at pigs.  Thankfully, I only have a few levels left in the game because I am not quite sure the impact it could have on my school, but this game is as addicting as they come and I highly suggest everyone to play it.  Just be careful that it doesn’t take over your life.