Gameification is the use of game mechanics in non-game contexts. Games are an integral part of the human experience; we have evidence of games being a part of human culture going back over 5000 years. We are all gamers: it is rooted into the very fabric of what it is to be human.
There has been a buzz in the business world over the last half-decade around this most basic of human impulses – take Toyota for example – they have built a very simple game mechanic into some of their latest car designs. On the car’s dashboard there is a screen with a little picture of a plant; if you drive economically, the plant flourishes, if not the plant loses leaves and withers. That’s it. People’s natural gaming impulse creates an irrationally strong desire to drive as economically as possible, to have that little virtual tree be as big and healthy as it can possible be. There are a number of impulses which come under this umbrella of ‘Gamification’: competition, levels, immersive narratives, goals etc…
It seems essential to me that the Church adopt Gamification processes if it is to remain relevant. Take Generation Z, those born from 2000 to the present day - the majority consider computer gaming their main source of entertainment, and spend on average three hours gaming a day. If activities in the ‘real world’ do not engage children like computer games do, children will resent them, and disengage from them. So could principles of Gameification be applied to the Church? Games are novel; they present us with a challenge, a challenge which is not static, but ever evolving to our play style and ability. The mechanics of games draw us in; they are addictive in nature, because they keep boredom at bay and press certain in-built evolutionary buttons.
Perhaps one very simple way of applying Gameification to the Church context is simply to play more games in church. A few months ago I experienced a Bingo night in Church; it attracted a very healthy selection of people, many of whom were not regular church goers.
Games in Church draw people into ‘sacred space’, and that is half the battle. Once there, a conversation can be had, especially if the game itself even begs such questions. We should find a balance between cheesy Bible games, which are not going to engage anyone, and games which are fun but do not demand any further reflection. For example, by simply situating games within certain historical contexts, people get drawn in and interested in the subject matter.