The Power of Play

There is a lot of talk about “gamification” at the moment in Market Research circles. As well as the proponents there are quite a few detractors. They seem to see research as a “serious” subject not to be trivialized or polluted by “gamificiation”. The problem is that they fail to understand the power of games. They also fail to understand how fundamental games are to human thought. Far from being trivial, games are a fundamental necessity for us in our cognitive development.

 

 

 

 

 

By Andrew Jeavons 

There is a lot of talk about “gamification” at the moment in Market Research circles. As well as the proponents there are quite a few detractors. They seem to see research as a “serious” subject not to be trivialized or polluted by “gamificiation”.  The problem is that they fail to understand the power of games. They also fail to understand how fundamental games are to human thought. Far from being trivial, games are a fundamental necessity for us in our cognitive development.

The importance of games for children came to the fore with the work of Jean Piaget, whose work on cognitive development in children touched off a revolution in education methods in the 1960’s. Piaget was interested in how children developed thought and knowledge. While many even now still refer to him as a psychologist, Piaget would always refer to his work as ‘genetic epistemology’. The work ‘genetic’ means ‘the origin of something’ and ‘epistemology’ means ‘the study of knowledge’. Hence he was interested in how knowledge was formed by a child. Piaget observed young children playing and he concluded that the very first steps we take towards adult cognitive processes are found in play. Children play with objects to obtain knowledge about them.  He believed that the physical actions of play were the first forms of knowledge that we have. While much of Piaget’s theories are now seen as old and outdated, the idea that play is crucial to the development of a child’s mind is still very much believed by many.  Piaget’s theory was that we develop internal cognitive processes by transforming our physical play into internalized actions, which is the basis of thought.

It isn’t surprising to therefore see that playing games of many forms in adult life are important. For instance team games can be an important process in adult socialization. How often have we heard the advice that when we move to a new town or are we are in a new organization that joining some sort of sporting team can help us gain new friends? We can develop social networks using games. Role playing games are a commonly used technique in management training to allow people to understand other people’s points of views.

 

Some of the biggest uses of new computer technology are games. Significant developments in computer systems, for instance the Kinect system developed by Microsoft, were developed specifically for game use. The history of computers shows what games are always in evidence when there is new technology available.

We use games to explore the world around us, or new environments such as software systems. Gaming is therefore not anything new to us as adults; it is the basis of our process of thought. It therefore seems strange that gamification seems to be greeted by some parts of the Market Research industry as something alien and frivolous. Playing games allows us to become comfortable with situations, such as a new town or company. It allows us to practice using new objects such as a Kinect box. It’s interesting to note that soon after the Kinect was introduced as a 3-dimensional interface to a computer game, a raft of more “serious’ real world applications were quickly developed using the Kinect technology.

Playing games is important to everyday life, so why shouldn’t it be important to M.R? Is it that traditional M.R is too self important and can’t see how they would benefit from Gamification? In the end, it’s all a game…

This post was originally published on Game Access.com

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5 Responses to “The Power of Play”

  1. Pat Molloy says:

    September 1st, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I want to take issue with Andrew’s closing comment ..

    “Playing games is important to everyday life, so why shouldn’t it be important to M.R? Is it that traditional M.R is too self important and can’t see how they would benefit from Gamification? In the end, it’s all a game…”

    By extension, why not argue that gamification should be important to brain surgery, or software design, or the engineering of the space shuttle.

    I don’t follow the argument that just becuase it’s important in “everyday” life, it necessarily has to be important to MR or anything else !

    Pat

  2. Jonathan Wheeler says:

    September 1st, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Really interesting article! Gaming or playing is certainly inherent in the human condition, although often veiled by social constraint and oddly frowned upon by ‘serious’ folk. Gaming normally involves some kind of competiton and there is no greater stimulus than competition to focus the human mind and body. As an industry we should embrace this new wave of thinking – let’s turn our boring surveys into fun ‘challenges’ and measure the difference in cooperation and feedback.

    At Blauw we are fully behind this movement and have developed an NPD/Ideation board game entitled ‘Design Game’. It’s a lot of fun to play, but there is serious theory behind the concept – mainly following the esteemed scholar Henry Hamburger (yes that is his real name!)

    Our feedback from using this tool is that we really see a marked difference with traditional ideation tools – it derives much richer insight and a higher volume of unfettered new concepts and ideas.

    We are convinced of the power of gameplay and are thrilled that the MR industry has started to wake up to the possibilites it can offer!

  3. Jonathan Wheeler says:

    September 7th, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Pat, I think the point is that gamification can increase the levels of interest, engagement and participation for survey respondents – not a bad thing in this day and age! The fact that gameplay is an important part of everyday life means that echoing these techniques within survey design can lead to a more challenging and fulfilling experience for participants.

  4. Susan Abbott says:

    September 7th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Games are an excellent alternative to experimental methods for MR, because they create a proxy environment where decisions are made. For example, creating a game environment in a focus group / customer lab setting can cut through a lot of what people say they do, and get to what they actually do. It’s also a lot more fun than just talking, for many people.

    I would like to hear more from @jonathanWheeler about this Design Game. How about a guest post here Jonathan?

  5. Jonathan Wheeler says:

    September 13th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    @Susan – I try not to incur the moderator’s wrath by posting advertorials….but you could have a quick look at http://www.design-game.co.uk while no one’s looking !

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