by Helge Fischer

Playfulness is a concept that can be applied to different entrepreneurial and/or educational contexts.

Playing is increasingly prominent in our society; and gamification – i.e. the use of game elements in non- game contexts – has become a common practice in many contexts. Scientific reflection, however, is increasingly revealing the limitations of the concept. On the one hand, undesired side effects of gamification are emerging (Dark Side of Gamification) and on the other hand, it is becoming clear that the application of gamification in everyday education and business is only effective if the socio-cultural context allows it. This draws focus to the concept of playfulness. The academic discussions on playfulness have recently been revived, especially in organisational research, due to the demand for new organisational forms that promote agility, resilience and self-organisation in the context of the digital transformation. Playfulness is the basis for gamification and shifts the research focus from tools to the socio-cultural aspects of playing.

Games have a positive effect on the learning motivation, can create flow and counteract frustration or boredom. Failure is accepted as „part of the game“ and provides the impetus for new attempts. On the cognitive level, games can prevent overload, promote knowledge transfer through situational and narrative embedding of information or accommodate different learning styles through adaptivity. The pedagogical discourse on GBL and gamification in learning is strongly limited to the use of games, game elements and tools in teaching situations and focuses less on the socio-cultural framing of games. Games are also organisational and interactive formats in which social practices are manifested. This means that games do not automatically result from the integration of badges, points and leader boards, but are facilitated by the socio-cultural context. Osterweil[18] defines the Four Freedoms of Play (freedom to fail, freedom to experiment, freedom to effort and freedom to change identities) as a prerequisite for organisational play. Warmelink[19] goes even further in exploring the characteristics of playful organisational cultures by examining online game communities in terms of organisational theory and deriving the following characteristics of playfulness: Contingency, Equality, Conviviality, Meritocracy, Agility and Teachability. The requirements for the design of game-based teaching scenarios can be derived from this research. Educators should therefore focus on the context of the teaching and learning situation prior to the use of GBL and ensure that playful education can be experienced by the participants.

GBL can…
only be effective if the socio-cultural setting within the lesson allows it, i.e. the learners can act freely as in a game situation.

GBL cannot…
be limited to the use of tools and methods, but must consider the experience of learners and the composition of the group.