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Playing games with local participation

By May 9, 20122 Comments

The term “gamification”, much like the term “social” is being thrown around in technology and business circles as the next frontier in web and mobile engagement.

World Of Warcraft

Flickr - World of Warcraft by juanpol

Gamification is most often defined as the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications and situations, It also suggests the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences.

Up to now the majority of mainstream uses and approaches of gamification have in my opinion mainly been driven by marketing people who have seen interesting opportunities to help increase sales and engage customers. There is nothing wrong with this, but there are even bigger opportunities where gamification principles could be applied to help renew local democracy and participation.

At City Camp Brighton this year Richard Vahrman suggested an idea called House of Games.

The internet has also enabled people to get directly involved in getting things done at a local level, rather than waiting for politicians to create policies to make things happen. There is now a wealth of web sites and apps enabling the public to tale part in everything from pot hole reporting to compost recycling. The one thing that hasn’t existed until now is the “glue” that joins all these great ideas together. Welcome to the House of Games.

It is a grassroots up approach that promotes and facilitates all the charitable and voluntary work that people are already doing on a local level, and rewards them for it.

When I think about this as a concept I tend to think of World of Warcraft the multiplayer online role-playing game – For those of you who don’t know much about World of Warcraft, let me briefly explain the link I’m making – Much of World of Warcraft play involves the completion of quests. These quests, also called “tasks” or “missions”, are usually available from non-player characters (NPCs) or other players. Quests usually reward the player with some combination of experience points, items, and in-game money. Quests allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, and explore new areas.

Quests are linked by a common theme, with each consecutive quest triggered by the completion of the previous, forming a quest chain. A quest chain is a group of quests that are completed in sequence. Completion of each quest is a prerequisite to beginning the next quest in the chain. Quests usually increase in difficulty as a player progresses through the chain.

In terms of the theory, this could adopted when solving local problems, we issue them as challenges (quests) and allow people to collaborate and come together to solve these problems and in doing so gain additional skills and experience.

Richard provides some examples of what neighbourhood quests could be :

  • Neighbourhood watch
  • Running a book club/extending library service
  • Helping solve the problems of digital exclusion (e.g. for the elderly)
  • Improving parks and green areas beaches
  • Working with local school
  • Using your professional knowledge in a local way
  • Compost recycling
  • Excess fruit and produce re-distribution

There are a number of interesting sites out there which currently promote the challenges and seek to encourage involvement and input from various people.

When I think about this idea in the context of what we at Public-i are working towards with Citizenscape and the welivehere projects – trying to connect local networks and provide mechanisms for local change and action – there is huge potential to align some thinking and work together on how this might happen.

Currently, when a user logs into the citizenscape platform you create a profile and as you interact with the content and widgets it displays your interaction within your profile. Now the question will be do we directly think about building the gamification idea into citizenscape, which would mean turning it into a social network in its own right which isn’t the best idea. Or and my current preference, is to provide integration to a separate site or service which manages the badges, points etc that a person might develop and gain. So it becomes a citizenscape user’s choice whether or not they wish to interact and display this kind of information on their profile.

It throws up some really interesting opportunities and some big challenges specifically around whether or not people would participate in such a process / approach.

The potential benefits are huge but it will be important to ensure that we fully understand and plan the approach collaboratively with some of the communities we are working with.

Right now we are exploring with Richard how we can align or even join up some thinking and projects in the area of Brunswick to test these ideas further and see if the welivehere project can be part of moving in this direction.

My honest opinion is that this may prove too much right now, but we may well start to build some of the basic processes and thinking in….


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