A post by SOTA12 co-curator Hannah Nicklin
The UK Riots were a flashmob.
Game mechanics are being co-opted in the name of marketing. The thrill of agency, the methods of getting people to choose to follow a defined action, suit those who wish to effect our behaviour very well. Games are a new tool/material to capitalist interests as much as they are to the arts. Margaret Robertson, Development Director at Hide & Seek speaks about this in Can’t Play Won’t Play:
“Gamification’, the internet will tell you, is the future. It’s coming soon to your bank, your gym, your job, your government and your gynaecologist. All human activity will be gamified, we are promised […] You’ll be able to tell when something’s been gamified because it will have points and badges. And this is the nub of the problem. […] What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience. Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards. They’re great tools for communicating progress and acknowledging effort, but neither points nor badges in any way constitute a game. Games just use them – as primary school teachers, military hierarchies and coffee shops have for centuries – to help people visualise things they might otherwise lose track of. They are the least important bit of a game, the bit that has the least to do with all of the rich cognitive, emotional and social drivers which gamifiers are intending to connect with.”
Gamification isn’t games; that games are resistant to manipulation is because they are constructed out of choice and everyone knowing the rules. Points and badges are the outcomes, the least important part; it is from the journey-past-opted-obstacles that the game and story-world emerge.
The UK riots of the summer of 2011 are definitively a flashmob; flashmobs are not explicitly a game but certainly a first-person playful and pervasive form. “Apparently spontaneous unusual or pointless activity organised primarily using social networks and mobile phone technology” (Wikipedia). Resistance happens on its own terms. It would be crass to suggest that these events were a conscious attempt to reclaim the flashmob from the choreographed forms of mobile phone networks, but these forms are situations defined by their participants. Games, in a similar way as the flashmob of viral marketing, are in the hands of everyone, and will turn to whatever the ends of the people designing, framing, and participating in them wish. There is their power. That is their affordance. Agency. It is potent. It is a battlefield. Let’s learn about it.
CC Image by Antonio Amendola Photography - yes I know it’s not of the UK ones, but it’s a cool image.