I don’t like achievements, or levelling up, or leaderboards. They make me uncomfortable. I’m as susceptible to them as anyone else, of course. I have a normal human brain, and I’m not magically immune to one-more-turn I-can-totally-do-better-this-time WOOO-I-found-an-orange-feather. But I don’t like it.
I also don’t want to be put in notional charge of a real place just because I go there a lot, or to unlock a special array of pasta recipes, or to get points for doing my taxes. I don’t even want to get a free coffee for every ten coffees I buy.
I don’t think these are bad things to do, or to want! But when forced into them myself, I do find them annoying and faintly embarrassing. The same is true of mustard and laugh tracks, and I don’t think they’re bad either; I just, you know, don’t want them everywhere, and would quite like an easy way to remove them from some of the television shows/sandwiches I consume.
There are easy ways to gamify anything you like: your websites, your experiences, whatever takes your fancy. But what I’d really like is a way to degamify anything, including games. Because if gamifying a nongame doesn’t really turn it into a game, then maybe degamifying a game doesn’t turn it into a nongame. Maybe it doesn’t even make it less fun.
With my Great Big Degamifying Button, I would live in a world in which:
- There would be no customer loyalty cards
- Players of a linear game could jump to whatever point they wanted, in the same way they can now with a book (I mostly wouldn’t, but I’d like the option, in the same way that I have the option to read Chapter 8 even if I can’t prove that I’ve successfully understood Chapter 7)
- I could turn off Xbox achievements, which is a frankly outrageous thing for me to not be able to do anyway
- Numbers like Twitter’s following/followed-by and Facebook’s friend-count would be hidden from sight
- I would never have to wonder whether someone’s status update or enthusiastic game review was genuine, or posted in exchange for points
- I wouldn’t have to rely on my own self-control (NOTE: I do not actually have any self-control) to keep me from spending hours on a game I don’t even like that much, just because it’s clever at overriding my better instincts
- I would never have to look at leaderboards, which usually just goad me into playing after I’ve stopped having fun (because I’m only just behind and I can totally do better) or discourage me into giving up while I’m still enjoying myself (because come on everyone has three hundred times as many points as me so why bother?)
- I would never again have to count out victory points in a board game! My score, if I had one, would be encoded in the state of the board, or perhaps in a collection of objects with a functional in-game use (like the cards in Bohnanza or Set or Apples to Apples). No more little cardboard tiddlywinks printed with shields and numbers! Imagine that.
This degamified world might not be better. But it’d be different, and it would be nice to find out how.
Picture by Jan Tik.