Anthropological Approaches to Gamification

Anthropologist Samuel Gerald Collins has spent his time observing how the new age of digital gaming is reflecting real life strategizes and could be useful in the education of many.  This thought came about while inadvertently observing the behavior of those who play in an online multiplayer environment.  He took notice of how there are many tricksters in the community who would harass and prank other players, and began to think critically about how these actions could be beneficial to learning and creativity.

A screenshot from the text-based strategy game “Spent”

Collins based his ideas around Gregory Bateson’s “double bind” theory, described as “an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other… so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response” (wiki).  These situations, while frustrating to the individual/group, have shown to stimulate the creativity of the person(s) by forcing them to think of other solutions to the situation they are in and reinforcing the desire for personal gain in the forms of winning or rewards.

This is where videogames fit in, as they set goals and make the player work to achieve them, even if they must play through it multiple times to get there.   In education, this method could be used as a beneficial property to keep students engaged in learning and continuing forward in the game.   With many more digital games being developed that reflect the average adult life, there is chance that this method could teach a range of ages not only the basic learning skills, but how to manage when they reach adulthood.