Blurring the Boundaries – Episode 7 Follow-up

Blur in Barcelona by Vincent (CC BY 2.0)

Gamification isn’t gaming. This will already be a mundane statement for anyone who has a working understanding of gamified practices and processes, but the distinction is worth raising here in light of our latest episode on Rocksmith. While games and gamification are different, we’ve found that in some situations there is a need for nuance. Certain examples might blur the boundaries of the two categories more than others.

Can a game also be or become a form of gamification? Is the distinction reliant on the way in which something is designed or the way(s) in which something is used?

We already gestured to the fact that technically Habitica could be used ‘as a game’ in Episode 6 if someone wasn’t actually using it to effectively build toward personal goals. Throughout the year we’ve delivered gamification workshops in Melbourne and Sydney where we’ve often drawn on the examples of Pokémon GO and the Boost Juice app, which also call into question a concrete distinction between gaming and gamification. We’ve found that many educators and other industry practitioners we’ve talked to don’t necessarily have a clear understanding of what gamification is – with a number of people we’ve met never having heard of it at all. Definitions are important (if you’re reading this and not sure yourself, feel free to check out Episode 1), but at times too much emphasis can be placed on establishing categories at the expense of a fuller understanding of the bigger picture…

There has already been a decent amount of commentary online about exactly what this Pokémon GO thing is. Reflections range from those who praise the app as exemplifying the massive uptake of gamification to come (see here and here, for instance), to those who emphatically label it as something other than gamification, such as a ‘fitness game’ or ‘exergame’. This issue of blurred boundaries was one topic we wanted to follow up on in relation to Rocksmith (which, significantly though not surprisingly, does market itself as a game). However, as you can see in our latest Periscope broadcast, there’s simply too much to talk about to simply debate nomenclature (that wasn’t a very accessible word to use in a blog post, but the degree of excitement such a complex term will likely invoke makes the point in itself! 🙂

Our discussion in the above broadcast could have dwelt on the question of whether Rocksmith is an example of a game or gamification for much longer than the total length of the recording. Yet as the Periscope hopefully showed, firm distinctions are sometimes only of limited value and can get in the way of picking apart more wide-ranging and fruitful questions.

Join us next time as we explore some more facets of our gamified world – and let us know in a comment below, on Twitter, or by email ( if you’ve discovered some gamified corners of your own habitats that you’re keen to share!


Featured image: WILD PIKACHU APPEARS! by Sadie Hernandez (CC BY 2.0)

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