Feeling Gameful anyone?

A fellow postgrad student told me about Gameful.org created by Jane McGonigal. She created the site to connect people interested in creating games for good. She believes that if we approach real world problems via the dedication of games we can do good things.

Gameful means “to have the spirit, or mindset, of a gamer: someone who is optimistic, curious, motivated, and always up for a tough challenge. It’s like the word “playful” — but gamier.” According to the site, “Gameful is an online Secret HQ for gamers and game developers who want to help change the world and make our real lives better. Think of it as a cross between a professional network and a creative brainstorming space. The goal is to make it easy for anyone making or playing world-changing games to find collaborators, mentors, jobs, ideas, and funding. And of course, to discover fun new games to play.”

Which games count as gameful: “As long as the project has a stated goal of making our real lives, or the real world, better — and not just to entertain us — then ANY kind of game counts: computer games, videogames, mobile games and alternate reality games; commercial games and indie games; serious games and art games; board games and iPad games; crowdsourcing and innovation games; street games and new sports; education games and activist games; health games and productivity games; and just about any other kind of game you might think of!”

It’s basically for people interested in making games that are making us “happier, smarter, stronger, healthier, more collaborative, more creative, better connected to our friends and family, and better at WHATEVER we love to do when we’re not playing games”.

As a media scholar, of course I am very analytical and I don’t think that all games or particular games ‘make us’ anything – it depends on the context and people’s individual interests.

Here are some games that have been labelled as ‘gameful’: EVOKEFold It!The Epic Win AppFlowerCode of EverandSuperBetterThe MP Expenses GameBudgetballthe PokéwalkerQuest to LearnLittle Big Planet: GamechangersWorld Without OilSeek ‘n SpellGoal Mafia,and Conspiracy for Good.

I have just been packing in my games for fieldwork with the kids tomorrow – Little Big Planet and Create are in the bag! I do not necessarily choose them to be ‘gameful’, I chose them because I want to look at how children negotiate customization. I do not wish to claim anything in terms of effects, but maybe some qualitative analysis can shed some light on how ‘gameful’ these titles are for particular kids in particular contexts.

My flatmate gave me a Sims lesson so I could brush up on my Sims skills. I think it definitely qualifies as ‘gameful’ – you have to buy the most expensive, top quality items for your house (to avoid them breaking later, fires, leaky taps), have to install telephones and security alarms and monitor that your Sims are happy at all times. It’s a real domestic workout that gets you thinking about modern living in a highly self-aware way, but at the same time shows how modern belief systems impact game design. For example, your Sim couple needs to be nurtured all the time – you have to check that they’re showing appreciation, talking, flirting. Additionally, playing Sims is not always ‘gameful’ – you can create Sims just to kill them off or cause chaos just for fun. But on the other hand, even creating chaos can be gameful because it depends on knowledge of rules in society: you need to know them well to know how to break them.