My trouble with gamification and the game-layer view of writing the future.

A set of disjointed facebook comments on the issue — that more or less get to the heart of the debate for me.

At its core, creativity and mental and intellectual development is about exploration. Replacing a macro game system — study, go to college, be successful; with a micro game system — study, level-up, next — doesn’t really solve anything. You can’t gamify true exploration or creativity, because you can’t gamify a territory that is not defined. And the moment you define a territory you limit yourself within it.

Also, “sabar ka phal meetha hota hai” roughly translates to “the fruit of perseverence is sweet”.

Comments / feedback much appreciated.


Is it just me that worries about “gamification” / “introducing game dynamics” in education and stuff? Sounds a lot like Pavlov’s dog. Perhaps we don’t need to dumb everything down to stimulus-response? Not unless we want a world of minions.
3 hours ago ·   · Like · 
    • Vikram Dhaliwal Using our knowledge of how the mind works to design better systems is hardly dumbing down. Dumb is what I would call education design today.
      about an hour ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar Somewhere we forget that systems are only as smart or as dumb as the people using them. 

      The purpose of education is not necessarily to spend 12 years in school and four in college. And it’s not necessarily studying the topics highlighted in curriculum(s?).

      Anyone talking about game layer and education in the same sentence is confusing the two and barking up the wrong tree. But that’s just my opinion.

      51 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar We can talk about creativity for example, but creativity is about exploring an unknown, and you can’t gamify an unknown territory. That’s not how it works. A game-system, no matter how complex, or laden with easter-eggs, is not going to do that.
      49 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar Then again, I also need to check out Dignan’s book on the topic. Might be something interesting that I missed.
      48 minutes ago · Like
    • Vikram Dhaliwal You and me can debate the purpose of education with the benefit of hindsight all day. The problem still is that it feels unconnected to anything, unrewarding and uninspiring to those currently in the clutches of our ‘education system’. Those advocating for game dynamics are merely arguing for making it more interesting and rewarding right now. Instead of postponing the rewards to some amorphous later date.
      38 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar Lekin sabar ka phal meetha hota hai.
      36 minutes ago · Like
    • Vikram Dhaliwal Try convincing a 13 year old of that. :)
      35 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar Well, a lot of other things are forbidden to 13 year olds, and rightly so. We want to teach them to be human beings, not animals. i.e. stimulus-response and Pavlov’s dog.
      33 minutes ago · Like
    • Vikram Dhaliwal Yes but how does making the process of acquiring knowledge more interesting by modifying it make the knowledge itself any less valuable?
      29 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar If you’re not doing something for the “right reasons” – i.e. “learning” – you might as well not do it.
      27 minutes ago · Like
    • Vikram Hazra ‎@AA: Interesting thought and I’m inclined to agree. hv been wondering these past few days whether handwriting itself will be outdated in a couple of years
      23 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar It’s like in this country you try to do “science”, then “medicine” or “engineering”, then “MBA” — not to learn or to manage or to build, but because it’s a pre-set pathway to gratification.

      That’s already our game layer. And we’re going to substitute that with another? Fake is fake no matter what you do.

      Which is why we’re barking up the wrong tree with this.

      23 minutes ago · Like
    • Aditya Anupkumar ‎@Vikram, I shudder at that. :( 

      I think I’m going to invest a part of my salary in schools that teach the old fashioned way, for people interested in learning that way.

      21 minutes ago · Like
    • Vikram Hazra hv some thoughts on the matter myself. Am in bbay 14-20 gimme a shout
      5 minutes ago · Unlike ·  1 person
    • Alfred Lee 
      I totally agree with you Adi!

      The dynamic of slow absorption, longer retention and extended retrieval has been replaced by fast uptake, minimal retention and scant retrieval. 

      And we’re replacing all of these essential skills for something as shallow as instant gratification. 

      That’s why our kids will complete all projects through Wikipedia, won’t think for more than 10 seconds before running to Google and won’t perform a single action unless there’s an ‘achievement’ to be unlocked.

3 minutes ago · Unlike ·  1 person

On Creativity, Non-Creativity and Messiness / RE: @gladwell

Got to see this video on creativity, by Malcolm Gladwell, courtesy @malbonnington. I like what Gladwell’s saying about creativity, about the messiness about creativity.

I acknowledge the use of binary differentiations between minds and work-roles – as, on paper, “creative” and “non-creative”. Those binaries have existed across archetypes of personality and across work roles for ages now. I do find the P&G argument he makes an uncomfortable one. I guess it’s a question on what you believe it is that your business “does”.

In Gladwell’s argument, (a bad one he says, and it’s true) if you’re in charge of selling P&G soaps, it’s your job to sell that soap, and looking at any idiosyncrasies can take away from that immediate goal. But what if your job is not just to “sell” the soap; but build a larger culture, a larger house than one of numbers?

I’d argue that no matter what your profession, taking a step back, following those idiosyncrasies will make for a richer organization and a richer culture around it and its products. This is something I’ve argued about with many a client, and embracing the broader culture has worked for them, every single time.

What you do has, at any point got to be a larger than the “scope of work” document. Whether you’re writing an exam (did you cram for it and reproduce answers as expected, or did you explore ideas and try to see where they led?), or at a sales event (are you trying to sell your product at discounts, or at the very least are you empathizing with who you’re selling to, figure out why exactly he needs it, what he could AND WOULD use it for, and sell it along those lines?), if you’re on the front lines of peace-keeping, are you going to shoot first or show restraint?

Invariably, the first way is the easy way, the risk-free way of doing things. But to do things right, you have to open yourself up – embrace a certain ambiguity, risk being wrong, risk being not-what’s-needed. But what you get is authenticity in your own utility in the World. And that authenticity will translate it into much greater value – in the short term and in the long term – than the first way.


The second coming of Gossage

stumbled across this article online, called “The second coming on Gossage”. The text is auf Deutsch, as it were, so I’ll just translate the relevant part, which is:

Jedenfalls: Wenn Sie diese Zeilen hier lesen, werden wir schon jurieren. “Cyber” nennt sich meine Abteilung und es ist, das muss ich schon sagen, die spannendste Kategorie im ganzen Bewerb. Nirgendwo sonst ist noch derart viel Neuland zu entdecken und nirgendwo sonst kommt man näher an die Menschen, denen man näher kommen will.Ich muss viel an Howard Gossage denken. Daran, wie er Werbung betrieben hat: Eine Kampagnenidee auf ein leeres Blatt schreiben, daraus eine Anzeige machen und auf die Reaktionen des Publikums warten. Aus diesen Reaktionen neue Anzeigen machen und wieder auf Reaktionen warten. So entsteht eine Kampagne, deren Verlauf vorher nicht absehbar ist. Die Kampagnen entstehen im Gehen, sozusagen. (Unter der nicht unwichtigen Vorsaussetzung allerdings, dass das Ziel klar definiert ist, bevor die Reise losgeht.)

Which, to paraphrase, really talks about why the web is so exciting as a medium for ideas. Even with people and creativity trawling through it, there’s immense potential in generating new narratives and fantastic brand conversations. He goes on to reminisce that Gossage’s campaign idea of communicate-feedback-optimize-communicate-feedback-tweak-communicate; i.e. testing your “offer” or “communication”, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, then rapidly altering the “offer” or “communication” – is really what it’s all about now.It’s sad that most campaigns in the digital space that I’ve seen in India don’t do this yet, don’t even attempt it. Active engagement and versatility is the key to a great campaign online. And this needs to first change at a servicing level. You aren’t selling a “website” or a “creative” or a “campaign” to the client; you’re selling his product or brand for him. Your communication needs to open up suitable narratives, which can only be done if you have a conviction for, and understanding of, the digital space itself.I do client service and rudimentary planning across brands that flit in and out of media depending on the message; but I’ll venture over the next few weeks to lay out observations and ideas on how to service and plan for  digital or multimedia accounts, because there seems to be a general dereliction with regards to thinking ideas through in this space, at first a managerial level; and consequently at a creative level. You can’t sell a great idea if you don’t understand it yourself, after all.