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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gamification of GIS and GIS Use in Gaming

American Sentinel University offers some of the most creative press releases to market its GIS degrees. In August it published this one: Gamification of GIS Offers Career Boost for Geospatial Professionals. I was expecting to read about the gamification of GIS and wondering which examples would be used. I would have selected Foursquare or Waze if I wrote the release.

But the release was about something different. It noted:
The gaming industry is relying on GIS for real-world datasets, which increases the need for trained GIS professionals.
That's true. But it's not gamification. Wikipedia defines it this way:
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.[1][2][3] Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage (improve user engagement[4] physical exercise[5] return on investment, flow[6] data quality, timeliness), teach (in classrooms, the public or at work[7]), entertain (enjoyment[6] fan loyalty), measure (for recruiting and employee evaluation), and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.[6][8] A review of research on gamification shows that most studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.[9]
Foursquare used game ideas to encourage users to collect badges and become "mayors" of locations. Mayors sometimes received free drinks or other perks when they visited their kingdoms (bars, restaurants, entertainment venues). In its latest incarnation, foursquare is encouraging different behaviors through gamification, as it encourages users to become "experts."

Waze encouraged drivers to help gather data in less travelled areas by visiting areas that offer "points" in a Pac-Man style game.

I consider Edit-a-thons and more formal games to capture geospaital data via crowdsourcing gamification, too, since they encourage competition. See for example the gamification wikipage for OpenStreetMap.

What American Sentinel University wanted to highlight, I believe, is the potential for good jobs for GIS professional in the video game and marketplace. The use of real world data in such games dates back some years. Here's a 2001 press release from ERDAS touting Microsoft's use of its software. I recall hearing a presentation in 2009 from the team member behind Microsoft's Flight Simulator. He explained how the company used real data in some areas and "faked it" in others. The big limitation in those days? Getting all the data onto the CDs and DVDs! Today, imagery and real world maps are part of virtual reality and augmented reality games and experiences.

There is great potential for both the gamification of GIS and the use of GIS data in games. Just be sure you know the difference!