I found Shapiro’s argument in this talk extremely compelling, and not just because he seems a good–dynamic, effective–lecturer. The notion of “scaffolding for emptiness” also strikes me as something much more than just a catchy phrase. This notion calls to mind, as well, one of the central arguments of the Narrative Game Studio course I’m taking this semester: that good narrative game design, design that is both efficiently produced and engaging to the player, contains “gaps”–in the main story, in the world the game has built around it–for the player to fill in for himself/herself. This is also, I think, one of the principle ways that science fiction can be so compelling.
I’m also glad I watched this video because it provided a much smarter formulation of my own skepticism about digital badges and the like in Shaprio’s assertion that gamification (as he defines it in his argument) is “built on the assumption that what we need is a better competitive, commodified motivation system.”
I do disagree with part of Shapiro’s argument (which he does qualify a bit in the Q&A), though, wherein he claims that players don’t really care about levelling-up (and points, achievements, etc.). I’m thinking here of RPGs, where much of the appeal of the game is in determining a path for development of your character, which I think can feel very empowering, part of that empowerment being the exploration of different kinds of self.