The Gamified Self Part I:

Between the Virtual and the Real: Seeking Evidence of Behavioural Transmission.

By Menno Gottmer – Player 2 @BrandNewGame

In the next couple of blog posts, I will elaborate on the ‘Gamified Self’, an idea devised by me with help of my colleagues at BrandNewGame, that serves as the main inspiration for my master’s thesis, which I hope to finish this year. Week by week, using these blog post, I will further develop my ideas about the Gamified Self, starting in this blog post with the mental steps that brought me to this idea.

The main goal of serious games or what some refer to as applied games is to learn or unlearn certain behaviours, with the goal to be able to apply these behaviours in the ‘real’ world. While the use of serious gaming concepts by various commercial and non-commercial organisations has skyrocketed over the past few years, evidence of an effective transmission between newly trained behaviours in the virtual world of serious games to the real world, has remained largely absent. Initially this could mean two things: either there is a discrepancy between behavioural change in the virtual world and the real world, or people have just not been able to study a possible correspondence between behavioural change in these two spheres. Since it has not yet been scientifically falsified that behavioural changes in a virtual environment might lead to behavioural changes in a ‘real’ environment, this leaves the second option open as the more viable one. But what in fact could be the cause of this epistemological hindrance that restricts people to research a possible transmission between the virtual world and the real world?

First let us focus on behavioural change within virtual environments, such as serious games. The possibility to acquire metrics inside a virtual environment ensures the precise tracking of all kinds of behavioural changes within that virtual environment. A metric is a measure of some property of a piece of software, which of course also includes serious games. Precise quantitative measurements are essential to do scientific research on behavioural change, and because of this, software lends itself excellently for this. Thus, metrics inside a serious game provide objective, reproducible and quantifiable measurements that can be used to precisely track behavioural change.

However, measuring and quantifying behaviour in the real world is not nearly as simple as it is in a virtual word. This in turn makes it particularly more difficult to acquire scientific evidence for the transmission between newly trained behaviours in the virtual world to the real world, evidence that is needed to prove that serious games are a valid and effective method for behavioural change.

First, what we need is an effective way to quantify human behaviour in the real world, and second, we need a way to measure the degree of correspondence between the quantified behaviour in serious games and the quantified behaviour in the real world.

Enter the ‘Gamified Self’; a thought construct that functions as an intermediary between the virtual and the actual, the game and the ‘real’ world. In theory, the Gamified Self is a portal where metrics of someone’s virtual and real behaviours are continually being processed. The ultimate goal of the Gamified Self is to be an on-going objective reflection of a person’s knowledge and skills, a reflection shaped by quantified behaviours exhibited in both serious games and the real world. Using the metrics of both real-world and virtual-world behaviours, The Gamified Self will be able to set relevant challenges for people. So not only will the Gamified Self be reproduce who you are, it will also produce new relevant challenges for you. While the Gamified Self is still only a thought, one day I hope to be able to realise all this.

The ‘Quantified Self’ movement was my main inspiration for this idea, and in next week’s blog post I will elaborate on this movement, and precisely explain how it offers possibilities to bridge the gap between the virtual and the real

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