Ideas Week: The Gamification of the World

It’s Ideas Week in Chicago!

When I was a parish pastor, some volunteer leaders came up with fun names for ordinary jobs to keep things interesting: Flower Czarina (the person in charge of Sunday morning flower arrangements) and Coffee Queens (those serving refreshments after worship) were among my favorites.

When we toured the Tribeca Flashpoint Academy for Chicago Ideas Week on Tuesday, I noticed they did the same things with the naming of their rooms.  The  library is called the Info Commons.

Howard Tullman spoke of the gamification of the world.  Get this:

  • More middle aged women play digital games now than teenage boys. (Hello Farmville.)
  • It’s more lucrative to sell virtual t-shirts than real t-shirts.
  • Building up one’s Klout score  = the game of life?

Again, there are consequences for church.  Just as secular educators have long used games to teach students, church educators have also used games – from Bible Jeopardy to What Would Jesus Do? – The Board Game to make Sunday School more fun.  We prefer to play.

But church is for losers.  We are the screw ups of the world who realize the need for a savior.  The first Christians included some rich and successful souls, but most of them were “sinners and prostitutes.”  Remember this song?  (One of my personal favorites.)

The world might increasingly become “gamified” but we who seek to follow Jesus find ourselves living counter culturally – even though we get sucked into the game more easily than we’d like to admit.  Eventually we get tired of games.

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2 responses to “Ideas Week: The Gamification of the World

  1. As an avid gamer (mostly video games, but board games too), I’m not really tracking with you here. Games are a form of play, and play is a very healthy thing. I’m getting the impression that you are linking games with something trivial or not real, but maybe I’m misunderstanding.

    I wouldn’t mind hearing more about ‘gamiification’ and why it runs counter to the church?

    Heck, games can even make you live longer. :) http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life.html

    • Hi Shawn – I agree that we need games. My issue is more about the not-so-healthy games people play, that keep us fake and full of ourselves. They can be good for us (the ones that make us live longer) or terrible for us (the ones that distract us from who we really are at our core.)

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