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Video Games Sparked Gamification Craze

Sasha-Ann Simons/WXXI News

When video game designer Joe Wilson walks into the room at Buffalo Game Space, he's on familiar ground. It's nothing but smiles and handshakes with the nearly 30 people who showed up to a Thursday night game developer meetup.

An organizer runs through some quick announcements before they begin.

Buffalo Game Space is a place for anyone to make video games. You can take your pick at classes, use the Space to create, and just bounce your unfinished work off other game gurus.

P-J Moskal heads the workshops at Buffalo Game Space. He just put together the latest Game Jam.

"48 hours, usually, hack-a-thons for game development, and that's a chance for members to test their skills and also come up with new interesting ideas," he said.

With so many people playing video games, it is no wonder that psychologists are studying what makes them so compelling.

And 'gamification' is a buzzword you might have read or heard in the last few years. It's been working wonders in the workplace and schools. Customer relations and classroom lessons are becoming more and more gamified. In the simplest terms, gamification happens when you introduce a game-like environment to help drive certain behaviors.

"Serious games...Games for learning, games for training, games for education, games for health, games even for social change," Moskal said. "Games for non-entertainment purposes."

Gamification has taken over our lives, and it all came from video games.

Stop by the The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games and you’ll find more than 55,000 items in their collection. They've got the most important arcade video games of all time and every major video game platform that ever existed.

Jon-Paul Dyson is the director of this center. He said despite the obsession - there’s still a feeling out there that video games do more bad than good.

“Video games have been part of this long story going from novels to movies to television to comic books in which people have feared this thing then eventually accepted and embraced it," he said. "The key determinant there in making the change is simple familiarity and generational turnover.”

Granted, gamification techniques do get people to change their behavior. But instead of focusing on the rewards, Dyson says motivation is the key.

“If you're trying to force something or get people to do something or game elements they don't want to do it's probably not going to work,” he said.

Buffalo Game Space is always trying to level up. Moskal said he’d like the group to focus future efforts on diversifying the roster of developers in the region.

"We have a huge refugee community in Buffalo. I’m an immigrant myself," he said. "And it would be really great to reach out to these communities because there's a lot of potential there. People play games in every culture.”

And so far members like Joe Wilson can't get enough of the Space. I mean, where else can they go to freely submerge in video games, all day long, no questions asked?

“I fell in love with the Space and I’ve been trying to do everything I can to support them," he said.