Fiction is a Three-Edged Sword

Fiction, interactive fiction and narrative

Gamification @ Futurebook

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I’ll be talking the Futurebook conference in London on the 5th of December as part of a panel on the topic of gamification, alongside Anna Rafferty, MD of Penguin Digital and Jess Brallier of Pearson US.

It’s been hard for me to pin down exactly what I want to say. The normal rules for talking about game design don’t really apply – the audience will be publishers, editors and writers, and I think a standard design talk about risk/reward and challenge/learning might send people to sleep.

Instead, it got me wondering about what gamification, and the insertion of “game-like” elements in other kinds of product and experience, really means. It seems to me to be less about making games, and more about making something that resembles a game and reminds “players” of the fun they’ve had elsewhere.

Or maybe it’s about holding people’s attention. Games are good at getting players to concentrate, and become immersed in the game-world. Players find it easy to take games “too seriously”: a game is a kind of virtual space, even if there’s no 3D-modelling attached.

That might be an attractive concept to explore, but there’s a paradox at the heart of it: publishers print books, and books are already good at getting readers to concentrate and become immersed in a virtual world. What can games offer that books already can’t?

And that the question that’s grabbed me, and where I think I’m going to root my talk. How are games and books similar, and how are they different? What, in the end, makes a game a game? Which is not same as the usual question behind a design talk, which is what makes a good game.

So I’m going to present an argument for a game needs to be a game, and hence, what makes a game-like experience feel like a game. I hope people find it useful, and after it’s done – and I’ve enough feedback to decide if it made sense after all! – I’ll write it up here.




Author: joningold

Jon Ingold is a writer and games designer from Cambridge, UK. He is co-founder of inkle, a company specialising in interactive narrative for mobile devices. He has written prose, plays, short films as well as interactive fiction, both in hypertext and parser-based systems. His short stories have appeared in Interzone magazine and his IF works have won competitions and awards.

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