Game & Gamification

Gamification is a relatively new word, belongs to the 21st century (2003). However, the game and the joy of playing, trying oneself against another, achieving, winning, has been with man for millennia. Homo Ludens, the book by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga from 1938, is a fundamental work about the importance of games for cultures and societies. Huizinga vividly describes how game is present in much of what human beings get up to. When reading the book it must be borne in mind that it is written during the 1930s and influenced by prevailing ideas of its time. 

Play is a voluntary activity or occupation executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding, having its aim in itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy and the consciousness that it is “different” from “ordinary life”.

Johan Huizinga, 1938.

What is gamification? The general definition is when the mechanics and dynamics of a game are used in a different context to encourage participation and activate the participant. More often than not this has a business purpose, for example with airlines’ benefit systems and discount cards in coffee shops. Gamification is also well known in teaching, where it is used to increase students’ interest in the subjects and encourage them to apply themselves harder. Today we are surrounded by gamification through our smart devices and social media. Fitness watches remind us to stand up and move and reward us when we reach a certain number of steps. Social media exploit our hopes for achievement and recognition, for example through “likes” and “rewards”. 

In recent years, the word gamification has changed meaning for many of us. Some say that it’s been overused to describe methods of sneaking game techniques into our lives and actions. Others say its meaning has widened. New technology and new thought, particularly regarding cultural communication, has led to games being more widespread than before. Today, gamification is not just about creating scoreboards and rewards to encourage people to participate in things which have nothing to do with games. When it comes to communication, gamification, game design and game theory are not far apart. It’s not just about the methodology; technology from the gaming world is also starting to make itself known in communicating the cultural heritage. In this short handbook, the focus is on gamification in a wide context, not on methodology but on game design and technical solutions. We examine how we can use games to communicate the cultural heritage more effectively to young and old. We also show how the gaming world’s technology can be used to preserve and communicate the findings of the past. 

Related Chapters: