Play, games, toys, playfulness and gamification

Game vs play Play games toys playfulness and gamification

Andrzej Marczewski

Gamification Expert, author, consultant and designer. I love to write about it, talk about it and bore people to death with it! If you really want to get to know me, check out the About page.

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10 Responses

  1. Marcelo Augusto da Silva CostaMarcelo Augusto da Silva Costa says:

    The use of game elements to improve the experience of the user, for example, use an image to inform the user of a page not found (404) instead of showing a boring message would fit in Playful Design?

  2. stevesteve says:

    I would like to add to the comments and conversation on body parts. One area of research I have examined is reward mechanisms based upon behaviour patterns. This came about when working on an idea about the gamification of human behaviour and that we as humans have been gamified over thousands of years. Our bodies have been designed to respond to chemical inputs through the endocrine system and which is probably why the brain is so large and adaptable based on the premise that it is far easier to change a path way or receptor in the brain and make a new connection than it is to grow and extra limb or foot to take advantage of an event or external influence. For example if you were out in woods and met a bear you can do one of two things Fight or Flight (Run) but how were these two options of behaviour created. If you stayed and fought you would get a reward of adrenaline and possibly if male also testosterone to make you aggressive. These chemicals are reward mechanisms if enough adrenaline was provided and you survived you were more likely to pass on your genes to your offspring ( a bit like levelling up). If you decided to run, your body would give the same chemicals, if you survived the chase you would be rewarded with survival which again would mean you had offspring with the same abilities. The rules are if you fail you die and therefore your genes die with you. If your brain make the connection that instead of fighting use adrenaline to run away and that gives you a better chance of survival rather than those who just fight, you win and your offspring win. The same is with reward mechanisms such as the application of skill. You see a mango in a tree you climb up and get it that’s is quite a risk, time consuming and uses up energy (you can’t climb down the tree with many mangoes). Imagine if you got rewarded with a buzz and warm feeling from trying to hit the mango out of the tree with a stone. Each time you missed you wanted to get another stone and when you knocked it from the tree not only did you get a bigger buzz you also got the mango and could eat it with the risk of falling out of a tree and throwing a few stones is less energetic than climbing. Those who developed repetitive behaviors that improved skills were rewarded more, with better chances of survival and this may also explain why randomly generated reward structures (Like Gambling) are so addictive as the behaviour tempts you to keep trying even when you have failed.
    These are just a few ideas to throw around and I am sure you can point out the areas that might appear a little weak so lets talk.

    • Nice. All of the reactions to these types of stimuli help us learn. Bear hit me, it hurt. I ran. I survived. Yay. Let’s just run next time. Now, the likelihood is that this individual would then teach their children and “friends” that running from a bear was better than punching it in the face. So his line and their friends thrived – until spears were invented. Then one discovered they could kill the bear if a few of them went at it with spears. Then the reward was greater – fur, food and they survived. That then gets taught. The neurochemical “rewards” all help to reinforce the learned experience. An interesting area to explore for sure!

  3. Hello Andrzej and thanks a lot for you grear article. Play and Game (that is quite difficult for spanish speakers) is one of the most hard and discussed concepts in Game Studies. Caillois pointed up this in his Ludus and Paidea theory and after other theorist like Frasca adapted it to digitalized games. I can remember also almos the same quadrant in Deterdings’ paper about the topic which he added gamification too.

    For me as a researcher on Games topic I think the main difference between Play and Games is parameterization, that is: if you use rules of some kind of numbers/math behind to measure/asses how nice you are “playing”. Why do I say that? Because rules are everywhere. For example in mimicry games (paidea according to Caillois) you have very particular rules for role play acting the proper way, but… Can you parameterized them without cutting the playing’s flow?

    By other hand, when you are speaking about toys, Could we consider our own body as a toy itself? Therefore when we are speaking about play and toy maybe we have to consider our own body as an object (or a group of objects) which we could use to play every kid of games…

    Thanks a lot and keep in touch!

    Flavio Escribano from

    • Thanks for the great comment. It is tough to give a definitive definition – there will always be arguments in areas like this where it basically philosophy! These are just observations that have helped me describe differences. I had considered mentioning body parts in the toy part of the article, but thought it could be confusing in the general scheme of things!! I wonder on the rules thing – is it explicit goals that make the game? Mimicry has specific goals – match the movements of the it other person. We don’t emphasise that failing to do so is “losing” but really it is!

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