Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gamifying Your Life (Away)...

Surgeons could gamify their work!
So now the software industry, dominated by geeky males for the most part, has invented a new "low" for software development: gamification.  That's right, a new word meaning "to make a game of."  Typically software development is a complex and tedious task: specifications, understanding, design, coding, testing - just to mention a few elements of the process.

For old school programming types like me the joy has always been in the satisfaction gained from doing the job right.  Does it work like its supposed to?  Is it cool?  Is it written with skill and style?  Is it elegant?

Good programming has always been part art, part science, part mathematics, part magic.  What's the best way to write that loop?  Can you optimize that code to shave off 50% of the execution time?  There have never been good metrics to measure it either.  Its always been "you know elegance when you see it."

So I a happened on this Wired article (here) about gamification.  It seems that some programmers at Microsoft took on the task of gamifiying .NET - Microsoft's software development platform.  Write "better code" - get a gold star.  (It's also listed here on Reddit.)  Some sort of plug-in that mindlessly applies metrics to the code to measure how "good" it is.

And its not just Microsoft.  IBM, according to the linked article, has done research on the topic as well.

Are they serious?

Yes, at least to a point. 

This is, I suppose, the bleeding edge of the gamification of society.

I grew up before "games" made their way into the entire consciousness of society.  When I was a boy a "game" came in a box and had plastic or metal pieces that moved around on some kind of cardboard surface.  Dice or spinners where often involved.

Video games showed up at the "mall" by the time I was in high school in the 1970's but the "mall" was far away and it cost a $.25 in 1970 money to play.  My first real job was fixing video game boards (black and white arcade games) built from 7400-series discrete chips on 12 x 18 double-sided circuit boards.  It was hard work and repair almost always involved soldering problems or bad chips.

So for me games were work.

But these days I have become more involved with iOS development: iPhone, iPad, etc.

To do this requires game skills: game-like UI ideas, motion ideas, feedback, and so on.  Apple requires them - the UI must be engaging and beautiful, blah, blah, blah.  I had to go out and buy a PS/3 and learn how to play games because without that insight I wouldn't be able to create the proper sort of UI or interface.  I know lots of gamers and while I get the idea of the games themselves there is a lot of art and science in how they work - skills I must develop.

But all this is different from making my day-to-day "job" a game.

Making work into a game takes me back to grade school and nursery school before: sit in a circle and listen to story books about little pigs singing while they build a house.  That sort of thing.

I've spent some 35 or so years writing code and I think I know what I am doing.  I don't need a game to make it fun or to give me "approval" through "gold stars" for not using a GOTO.  (BTW, I do occasionally use "goto" because you need to - real problems are not all solved by "simplified languages" without them.

Gamification I think is spawned from an underlying societal problem: children don't receive enough hands-on positive (or negative) feed back because adults are too busy or involved elsewhere to pay attention to them.  So adults (and society) invent "systems" to provide gratification to the youngsters via other means (gold stars, etc.) - gamification being a good example.

I am happy to write good code because, in and of itself, to me that's a satisfying thing. The code works, the customer buys it, I make a living, the customer does real work.

I don't need a game for this... 

What if surgeons used a system like this? 

Put on a 3D VR helmet with sound effects.  Oh look!  You cauterized that vein neatly!  A bell could ring - gold coins would rain down - cha ching - cha ching.  On the other hand if you cut that nerve running to the patients finger tips a sad face with tears could appear along with the sound Pacman makes when the ghosts eat him.

Maybe I could have an iPhone app that gives me a gold star when I pick my child up from daycare on time...?  When I drive from home to work without texting?

Honestly... this is totally insane.

This all stems from the fact that a generation that has spent most of their lives glued to Hi-Def game displays has now reached the work force (albeit late, say at age 35).

They simply don't know how to do much else so everything becomes a game.

What about their marriages? 

Oh! I need an iPhone app for that too... 

Did I kiss the spouse today?  Ding Ding - hearts could appear!

Did I hug my child? Gold coins could rain down.

Did I not look at my phone or text while we had sex? 

Ding Ding - my app can remind me - take out the garbage.  If it detects that I didn't come home from work and sit for too long playing games I get a gold star!  (Isn't GPS inside your house a wonderful thing!)


IBM research on this?

How about research on the collapse of modern society?

Where did we lose the fact that we are grown ups?

No comments:

Post a Comment