As our technology-driven society progressively grows more and more individualistic, and digital social platforms are separating us from our physical realities, the concept of “gamification”, the mobilization and implementation of game elements into shared physical environments, serves as a solution to bring us together. The inclusion of rankings, scores, levels, rewards, and other game mechanisms into applications, websites, and public spaces promotes competition in game-like environments, in which participants can playfully interact and at the same time achieve the desired sets of behaviours and goals of the game-makers. While the games themselves are competitive, gamification in real world scenarios is successful in connecting people and promoting a less individualistic and more cohesive society. Could the competitive elements of gamification connect us in an era dominated by a digital realm tearing us apart, while also increasing social productivity and civic participation in the process? Can competition truly be ruled as “bad” if it increases social interaction and innovation?
In “Cities and the politics of gamification”, Alberto Vanolo explores the impacts of gamification on urban environments as well as highlights the various methods of gamification successfully implemented in today’s society. By presenting an array of real world examples ranging from city “playgrounds” to democratic engagement, Vanolo illustrates the effectiveness of gamification in urban contexts in stimulating enthusiasm and participation in social, cultural, and political activities, ultimately employing the competitive instruments of games to increase social communication and interaction as a means of bettering the general population. Collective action as a response to gamification is exemplified through the mobile app Pokémon Go, a competitive game that allows for urban exploration within a digital world, greatly contrasting the general perception of video gaming as a socially reclusive activity, and instead promoting the importance of physical exercise and social interaction in a shared city landscape. One can also compare this to WeRun, a WeChat game that tracks an individual’s strides and allows them to compete with their friends over their average daily step count, promoting external interaction as a means of beating other competitors, and encouraging healthier levels of physical and social activity in the process.
In agreement with @malwedy’s post, in which social media applications were argued to be harming our ability to interact with our surrounding environment as well as fostering competitive relationships among users, a consequence of digital technology as a separating force rather than a coherent one. Gamification serves as a contradiction to social media in this perspective, promoting healthier uses of technology by allowing individuals to interact in a space beyond the digital realm while still using current trends in technology to make it equally as playful and enjoyable. Her response additionally mentions Nelson and Dawson’s analysis of the importance of competition as a driving factor in generating productivity and excitement, a phenomenon that Vanolo argues is essential to unifying individuals under the notion of gamification.
Ultimately, “Cities and the politics of gamification” describes cities as unique social environments in which competition in gamification serves as a primary means of physically connecting individuals in an era where technology has dominated every aspect of our social lives. While the implementation of gamification is understood as a positive use of technology in increasing social interaction, Vanolo’s article made me wonder that as technology begins to dominate the various different aspects of our lives, and is implemented in city landscapes, is it distorting our understanding of reality itself? As our physical and virtual lives become increasingly intertwined, and with the rapidly developing technologies of virtual reality, will technology reach a point where the real world and the digital world will become inseparable? Vanolo’s “Cities and the politics of gamification” offers a comprehensive contextual background for future research in the field of gamification and technology, hopefully leading researchers and technological developers to a future in which technological competition continues to exist within an urban environment, and not an urban environment existing within a technological reality.