A familiar looking ponytail wearing man returned for a lecture in the MassDiGI building on February 7. In hand, he had a print of his latest book, “Game On.” Jon Radoff made his first appearance at Becker back in September during the “Changing the Game” academic panel. Then, he was suited down compared to his colleagues; arguably, Radoff actually looks like a ‘gamer.’ As noted from his last stage presence, he was in the gaming industry before most of us current gamers. In fact, he had gone to a college down the street, only to drop out at 19-years-old.
“Why are games fun?” he asks.
Radoff notes the phenomena of businesses becoming interested in games. In Korea, his book is translated as “Gamification,” something that the book is apparently not about, something Radoff is a critic of instead. The audience is soon taught a brief history in psychology. B.F. Skinner was a pioneer in behaviorism who pushed through “Freudian bullshit,” as Radoff puts it. Although, Radoff believes behaviorism defines ‘gamification’; Radoff disagrees with Skinner. The audience is shown a picture of a mouse being taught to get cheese as a reward. The businesses that strive on ‘gamification’ make us believe we want rewards.
“Farmville is the past,” he says. “Gamers don’t play Facebook games, but they can’t deny they’re successful.” Radoff shows a graph of clustering data. The clusters represent people in social situations. People with smiling profile pictures interact with other happy people. People with less notable smiles interact with similarly unhappy people. Ultimately, those with more satisfying experiences are happier than those who are materialistic.
One must wonder if video games cross that boundary; they can be great experiences to be shared with others, although video games are collected and put up on shelves as trophies.
As with the College’s last lecture involving the gaming industry, we are given a history lesson on games. Thankfully, there are different images presented; a kangaroo’s fur made into a ball for a soccer-like sport and backgammon from ancient Iran. Radoff finds this to be clear evidence as to why games survive; they are social. Games have coevolved with humans.
Video games that are played alone are modern anomalies. As with Facebook games like Farmville, they are merely multiplayer illusions. We don’t actually interact with others in Facebook games; we just see everyone’s progress. Radoff hopes to improve social gaming. Multiplayer games are a growing business, although solo games will always be around.
Radoff shows us a grid based on players’ motivations created by Richard Bartle. With it, you may discover what sort of player you are: an achiever, an explorer, a socializer, or a killer. Radoff had a new and improved grid to present. This grid described what field of gaming you most opt to enjoy; immersion, achievement, cooperation, or competition. Both grids are interesting in that they show what gamers find fun. Unfortunately, Radoff’s grid may as well be a replica; all of Radoff’s fields of interest match Bartle’s player classifications: killers prefer competition, socializers prefer cooperation, et cetera.
Jon Radoff argues that socializing makes games fun. He ends with, “Games are central to being human.”
Afterward, some Becker college ‘gamers’ met back at the Hawk’s Nest to socialize. One student, Ron D’Orleans, had expected to hear more about the lecturer’s entrepreneurship. He thought the lecture was meaty with information. In response to the current standing with social gaming on Facebook, he said, “Gamers were once jaded, now we understand.” Bill Sontag had a similar positive perspective. He seems hopeful for the future of social games, although realizing that “Farmville is influential, but not social like it was supposed to be.” Becker student Breeze Grigas also expected more from the lecture. He was fortunate to find that our lecturer wasn’t “pushing for” what he referred to as “mental and emotional manipulation like previous speakers.”
Brendan Testa, Staff Writer