Game Studies: Gamification of Society

Globalisation, diversity and technology, just to mention a few, are driving the need to source alternative or extra methods of play and social engagement, and video games are part of the ongoing discussions.

Gamification of Society explores the role of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in the formation of social capital in virtual/digital communities through a virtual ethnography of war and first-person shooter video games. The study creatively explores the extent of modality switching from the gaming paradigm. This is reinforced with interviews and an overt virtual ethnography of small to medium-sized organisations (SMEs) in England. Proven academic frameworks are deployed throughout the project life cycle. By fitting the findings of the virtual ethnography into the frameworks below, new frameworks are extracted for technology-adoption maturity and the 4th industrial revolution.

Multiplex Theory (Squier, 1910)
Innovation Diffusion Theory (Rogers, 1962)
Self-Deterministic Theory (Deci and Ryan, 1971; 2000)
McKinsey’s 7s(Waterman and Peters, 1980)
Fifth Discipline(Peter Senge, 1990)
Player Types (Bartle, 1996)
Communication Theory (Walther, 1996)
Octalysis (Yu Kai Chou, 2003, 2015)
Playing for social comfort: Online video game play as a social accommodator for the insecurely attached(Kowert and Oldmeadow, 2015)

The study introduces a new guiding theory, frameworks and a new games-based learning guide for the classroom, home, library and the community. The study creatively exposes missed cues in social online research and introduces vital turnkeys on how virtual gaming experience can transform into social capital making essential recommendations for the hidden middle and hybrid society.

Nature of the problem

Video game research has been monotonous, monotonous in the sense that they have concentrated on the negative outcomes of video gaming such as delinquency, addiction and aggression with very little interest in the social side of video gaming or the effects of social media CMC on “Player Types” (Bartle, 1996).

As such there are vast numbers of documents on the negative effects of gaming. And we scarcely hear about the positive effects of gaming, such as; learning, development and the other positive outcomes that can manifest from engaging in video-gaming activities. Not to mention, the extent to which social, environmental and financial benefits are embedded into the whole digital gaming experience.

While previous studies certainly played a pioneering role in dissecting the basis of the whole gaming experience, they lack the robustness or connectivity that is required to fully delineate the social side of gaming or what the social, environmental and education domains can learn and adopt from the video game and gaming discourse in a digital age. 

Why is it problematic?

We are in a period of human history that is predominantly characterized by an ongoing shift from the traditional industry to communities and societies based on Information computerization. The onset of the industrial age is associated with the digital revolution, the evolution of technology in daily life and has led to the modernization of information as communication processes become the driving force of social evolution.

Video games are all about playing and having fun and the video game industry is the first to put human-focus design at the heart of their productions (Chou, 2015) and there is certainly a lot to learn from the construct, especially since the proliferation of social media in the early ’00s.

There is an undeniable paradigm shift from function-focused processes to human-focused processes within academic and organisational domains.

Extrinsic motivation is negatively overtaking intrinsic motivation in academic and organisational domains and there is a sense of realisation that there is more to video games than just playing, more to computers than just games and that there is also more to social media than just social advertisements and social marketing. Due to the scoping and bottom-up nature of the project, the issues are broken down into three distinct, yet, interconnected areas below.


The digital age has been heralded as the ludic century as games and play have become the dominant cultural form of the era.

Play is fundamental to who we are and we can now play in online and virtual environments too. Play is circular, incomplete, and difficult to unpack (Eberle, 2014), it is frivolous, yet, it requires focus, it can be structured, goal-oriented and aligned to most real-world activities. 

Play is more than about just “letting off steam”, it can be quiet and competitive, as well as active and boisterous, it has been associated with childhood and adult development (Johnson, Christine, Yawkey and Wardle, 1987), friendship (Sutton-Smith, 1987)), communication (Bateson, 1955) and growth (Ellis, 1973). 

Every child knows what it means to play, but as for the rest of us, we can merely speculate. However how different the interpretations of play, they all reveal a certain quirkiness, redundancy, space and flexibility (Sutton-smith, 1981). 

Play needs space and play spaces provide a unique opportunity for everyone, and this includes disabled people and citizens and players. Everyone has specific needs, and everyone should have the opportunity to experience identical challenges and take risks while playing as it is essential to the healthy development of the brain, mind, social and cognitive development and not just physical development.

As a play environment, video/digital gaming present a unique opportunity to capture how to best utilize the use of play spaces for adaptive learning, peer learning and future institution and learning design.

As a form of mental feedback and style adaptation, Sutton-smith (1981) pointed out that play might nullify the rigidity that sets in after any successful adaption, thus reinforcing variability and it can provide a model of variability that allows natural and adaptive social development.

Video Games

Play is what we do in our own time and for our own reasons, during play, we choose what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and importantly, who to do it with. Play is increasingly being explored as a potential problem-solver in various learning and organisational discourses. BT recently recognised gaming as a digital skill and has included gaming learning guides in its digital inclusion resource bank.

A considerable number of organisations have emerged as a result of blissful productivity, while some have centred their values, missions and goals on the ambiguity of play. 

Digital, mobile, board and video game developers on other hand seem to be taking the concept and ambiguity of play to a whole new entertainment level. Digital game platforms like Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox One increasingly invest in great multiplayer game experiences that offer dynamic, rich, memorable, challenging, collaborative play environments and according to Gartner, the video games industry is set to be the largest entertainment industry by the end of 2016.

In relation to war games and MMORPGs mentioned above, Drachen, Sifa and Thurau (2014) in their analysis of the patterns in character names and gamer tags point out that, unlike WoW (World of Warcraft) and other MMORPGs, the character and gamer tags of war and FPS genres are not dedicated to a specific character but rather, to a specific player account p. 24.

This is quite useful as the pre-initiation investigation did manifest compelling signs of Drachen, Sifa and Thurau’s (2014) findings, and begs the question; if game mechanics through CMC can have such impressive effects in real life, won’t it have some sort of effect on the users exposed to it day in, day out, for relaxation and for social satisfaction?

Perhaps the answer to this question lay in the tangible and intangible interactions that occur in their different play spaces. With that said, modality switching between the user remains an academic void, as such, our research adopts the lens that “space” is the most significant game mechanic, this is so because it is the only dimension of game mechanics where self-expression tangibly and intangibly takes place.

What begins to emerge is that the other game mechanics, such as points and badges are simply there to support the experience and based on say, Bartle’s player types (1996), while these mechanics meet the expectations and needs of the achiever player type, it is by no means a reflection of what keeps the players engaged. Is this what Gamification currently lacks?

Play Spaces (Interactive, Cooperative, Collaborative and Competitive)

Play is broad in human experience, rich and various over time and place. It accommodates pursuits such as peekaboo and party banter, sandlot baseball and contract bridges, scuba diving and scrabble, boxing and foreplay.  

A play space is an environment where some sort of activity occurs, it can be between two or more individuals or even an individual and it is usually for fun (Play England). According to Play England, a play space needs to be of high quality and of good design to attract individuals and families and become a valued part of the local environment (Play England).

People play in many different ways, according to their own interests, their abilities, and certainly at different times and places of the moment. Every play space is unique and the success of a video game software is significantly dependent on the product’s distinct use of game mechanics and game rules within the design of the player play spaces. 

Video game spaces empower, like most real-life co-working and play spaces empower the user with freedom of operation and freedom of movement.

The pre-initiation investigation pointed out that virtual gaming community social connection and formations in their different environment of play spaces are not at all unique to their real-life counterpart, based on the findings from the proposed study, they actually contain the same ingredients as real-world formations (Homophily, Propinquity, similarity matching, and space proximity).