Gamification, Serious Games, Ludic Simulation, and other Contentious Categories

Gamification, Serious Games, Ludic Simulation, and other Contentious Categories

Brock Dubbels (G-Scale Game Development and Testing Laboratory, Department of Computing and Software Engineering, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2013040101
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This paper provides a conceptual framework for gamification, ludic simulations, and serious games. Central to this framework is the spectrum of design that differentiates work and play. Work and play help define software in purpose as games, productivity software, and entertainment. These categories are informed through cognitive feature analysis of narrative and game play structure. Both can be analyzed to determine the degree of work or play in an activity, as well as issues that influence sustained engagement, which is essential for avoiding game abandonment. To demonstrate the framework for the design and analysis of gamification, ludic simulations, and serious games, several case studies are presented with feature analysis to substantiate the categories.
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The Cost Of Game Abandonment

Building games can be costly. According to the article, “it can take two years for a team of 100 people to create six hours of playable story. At an average burn rate of $10,000 per man month, that's $24 million just in developer cost”(Snow, 2011). Not all games are this expensive to develop, but it is important to consider that 90% of players did not finish the game of the year; and Red Dead Redemption took over 800 people and nearly six years to complete, with a total cost estimated at approximately $80m-$100 million, making it one of the most expensive games ever developed (“Red Dead Redemption,” 2013).

This is not an indictment of developers for making bad games; it is an acknowledgement that designing a game is difficult. Failed games are very similar to successful games. They share many of the same structural elements that make them potentially fun, but somehow, these games don’t cut it. They do not sustain engagement. When a game is meant for serious applications like work, medical treatment, and training, it is important to sustain engagement until the activity is completed and the outcomes of the game delivered. But if high profile games, struggle with this topic, how can we expect hybrid categories such as gamification, serious games, and ludic simulations to succeed?

It is important to see beyond the potential power of games, and look at their real capabilities. Games are only as good as their design. Computing, software, and the innate capacity for play are compelling and offer great potential. However, once a game is built, it is what it is. If the game is a one-trick pony, that one trick needs to be really effective, especially if it is a really expensive one-trick pony.

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