thoughts on gamification and agency to determine own goals (in life)

When I go to a cafe I want a cup of coffee. I already know how to order it. I already know the social convention of going to a counter and paying for it. I don’t necessarily think they should try to make that core experience into a game somehow.

Good games have interesting choices and compelling narratives. The gamification movement is focusing on the reward system, not the meat that makes good games good.

And, actually, when I go to a cafe, I’m already playing a game. Is it crowded? Maybe I should order a mocha instead of an americano so I don’t have to deal with the milk and sugar counter. What’s the most optimal way to get the best damn cup o joe I can?

I don’t want them to introduce underlying rules to what’s optimal. I don’t want them to dictate what gets rewarded, pushing me in a set direction. I want freedom to play the game the way I want to play.

When you realize that many parts of life… maybe all life… is a game, it’s very empowering. All you have to do is learn the rules. Then you can push and poke at those rules until you succeed. And by “success” I just mean you have agency in determining your own goals and getting what you want out of life. You have the power to create your own personal compelling narrative.

2 thoughts on “thoughts on gamification and agency to determine own goals (in life)”

  1. Perhaps empowering, but problematic if one neglects the way in which power (and its relations with knowledge, authority, space, and violence) structure those opportunities for “agency”. The metaphor is not so different from the emphasis on subjects’ ‘performance’ made by post-colonial/modern/structuralist scholars. Yeah, one’s class is inscribed in the flesh, embodied, and performed – but it is fundamentally a position within a class structure produced within capitalism. ‘Life-as-game’, ‘subjects-as-players’…is the game unjust?

  2. Yeah, I agree. We often reproduce the same social structures we’re in. But that’s precisely what I’m arguing that promoting a gameful attitude is good at mitigating. It’s not in this post but in a previous statement on gaming expertise… Gaming practice can be basically about pushing at systems, and hopefully a gameful attitude would help people recognize their place within existing systems and question how they can be different and how they can work around the rules.

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