Does Gamification Turn Readers Into Winners and Losers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Gamification asks readers to solve problems, find clues, and achieve goals, but what happens to the reader who “fails” at these tasks?

By Edward Nawotka

game controller

As publishing becomes “gamified” certain questions are raised, such as whether or not readers can be classified as winners and losers? If books add gaming elements that are intended to motivate — or manipulate (depending on your point of view — readers into taking certain steps to solve problems, find clues, and achieve goals, what happens to the reader who “fails” at these tasks? Will they be left behind by the “winners” who can continue to progress onwards through literature and reading?

Certainly some might say that such a scenario already exists and is inherent in education. Take poetry, for example, which many readers abandon reading and might be called “an acquired taste.” Many readers feel they simply don’t “get it,” — whether because of the structure, the language, the forms or the allusions. If poetry were a game (bear with me, I’m not being literal) than those who “get it” would be winners; those who didn’t would technically be the “losers.”

Does, then, the gamification of publishing offer an opportunity to bring in new readers while simultaneously alienating others? After all, if a book is “gamified,” does it not presuppose such a situation? Perhaps this is merely a rhetorical question, after all, crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are both games, but not finishing one doesn’t turn one into a “loser” as such.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.