-Brought to you by: Dwight Hunter, Paulina Rajkowska and Periklis Tsikizas
Last month the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a major offensive operation, Operation Pillar of Defense, against the Hamas as a part of the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict. This operation lasted from November 14-21st but sparked continuing viral attention online due to the IDF’s somewhat brilliant, albeit morally and ethically debatable, use of social media.
The most viral portion of this social media campaign might have been when the IDF’s Twitter account engaged in an actual public exchange of Tweets with Hamas. Now while this is interesting (and a bit entertaining) in its own right it’s not the most controversial aspect of the IDF’s use of social media. No, that award is given without hesitation to IDF Ranks.
IDF Ranks seeks to make viewers of their blog into “a virtual part of the IDF” by utilizing a technique called gamification. What exactly does this mean? Simply put this is a virtual reward system. Viewers can gain points to level up in rank and earn medals for doing any number of things… visiting the site, reading posts, liking, commenting, sharing on Facebook/Twitter, need we go on?
Now this game caught a lot of attention, most stemming back to an expressive post by John Mitchell on Readwrite.com where he describes the IDF’s gamification of war as “absolutely horrendous” and “unconscionable”. His thoughts were shared with similar stories appearing on more websites like Time and Gamespot. But we don’t want to get caught up in this debate of morals, warmongering, right and wrong. Nope. Not where we’re taking this.
Alright, so let’s step outside the emotional cloud and controversy that surrounds IDF Ranks. Instead let’s shoot back (see the wordplay?) right here –> Gamification <– “the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” IDF Ranks is an incredible use of gaming as an incentive to get the public engaged not only with the blog but within their own networks of friends. Maybe right we look at this as just some horrible aberration because of the content on the IDF’s blog but how will this be viewed in the future? What if we applied their model outside the contexts of war?
Gamification isn’t something new or unique to the IDF’s blog. Just check out this new game, Airman Challenge, released by the US Air Force. If anything gamification is becoming a more popular method of generating interest. However, the IDF’s use of gamification becomes unique due to its integration of social media and politics. The IDF Ranks game is a successful utilization of competition, entertainment, social media and public relations work to promote itself. We see this as a possible insight towards the future of promoting civic participation.
Might this be a new future for political campaigns? Will you be seeing similar games popping up in your next elections on your favorite politician’s blog? What if Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had their own ranks game attached to their campaigns? Would supporters have started comparing their dedication and involvement by points, badges and rank? Maybe reward the most active participants with invites to banquets or stage seats. Stir up and use all the best aspects of social media, gaming and competition to win PR campaigns. Why not?
Could activists utilize this style of gamification to draw attention to their causes? Promote continued involvement and try to overcome slacktivism by offering systems of virtual/symbolic rewards?
We see this is a very real possibility. What’s your view?
This article was created because we loved this topic and for its pure awesomeness. But, possibly also because of a class project for Internet, Social Media and Society at Uppsala University and the chance share our perspectives on technology with you… the readers… because we like you and hope to get you interested!