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Edward Castronova, PhD: Gamification: A Critical Review



Universities and other organizations are in the midst of a great wave of transformation as a result of digital technologies. As a result, some previously marginalized cultural practices are coming to the fore. Nerds are now cool. So are gamers. The explosion of video game playing that began in the 1990s has now spawned a broad “gamification” movement. The thought is, with digital games being so entertaining for young people, perhaps games are the very best way to move old practices into the digital age. If a college class seems boring and behind the times, gamify it! If a corporate office seems tired and dusty, gamify it! If a political message falls on deaf ears, gamify it! The actual content of gamification varies, but typically involves some sort of networked interaction along with virtual rewards (“badges”). In this talk, I take a jaundiced view. But I also suggest that there really is something to be gained from game literacy. It is an important and growing cultural form. Gamification is hype, but games are not.

About Edward Castronova

Edward Castronova wonders why vanilla ice cream is even produced in a world that knows chocolate. He is a Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Castronova specializes in the study of games, technology, and society. Notable works include Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (Chicago, 2005), Exodus to the Virtual World (Palgrave), Virtual Economies: Analysis and Design (with Vili Lehdonvirta, MIT, in press), and Wildcat Currency: The Virtual Transformation of the Economy (Yale, in press). Castronova was born as Edward Bird in 1962, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1995, and took his wife’s name on marrying in 2000. He has two sons, two god-children and a beagle named Tilly. Castronova thinks God is a game designer: Get to Heaven for the win.