Society Gamification or How Scientology has Mastered the Use of Game Mechanics to Drive Behaviours
If you have ever been curious about what makes Scientology so appealing to so many different kinds of people, maybe the answer comes down to one thing: gamification or the use of game mechanics in non-game contexts.
Referred to as a “religion that pursues spiritual enlightenment” by its followers, Scientology is called a “money making cult” for those who are skeptical of it. Millions of people are involved in the scientology movement around the world.
Why does Scientology appear to be so successful? How does the Scientology church manage to grow membership and loyalty like a steamroller? What are the game mechanics behind an organization that is amassing millions on members’ payments and donations? How have they managed to create a “business” that owns amazing properties in the best locations of the most important cities in the world and appears so appealing to celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Will Smith? And most importantly, why are they willing to pay millions of dollars to reach the ultimate levels?.
We have identified 30 game mechanics that Scientology implements successfully (out of the 47 game mechanics that Schonfield describes in this article). If you wish to receive the complete article straight to your email account, please fill the form at the end of the article.
Heal the World, Make it a Better Place
Epic Meaning is the first of the game mechanics and happens where players become highly motivated if they are able to achieve something that is awe-inspiring and bigger than them. For example, the Warcraft universe has a very inclusive story line that has resulted in the creation of the second largest wiki on the web.
Scientology, utilizes “Epic Meaning” by offering an ultimate goal, which, according to their website, is spiritual enlightenment and freedom for everyone; through the achievement of a saner world, which is reached by the work of each one of their followers through “The Bridge” to become a Thetan (´basic self´).
The Merrier, the Better
Virality is the second of the game mechanics found and encourages multiple people to play together in order to achieve goals. Games like Farmville exemplify this; when you invite your friends to play, you achieve more success. Scientology uses virality in their mission; the more people that are involved in the cause for a better world, the easier it will be to heal humanity from its woes. For that reason, they partner with some organizations like Foundation for a Drug-Free world , The Way to Happiness, United for Human Rights, Applied Sholastics and Narconon International. Google Adsense or YouTube ads promoting those sites can be found all over Internet, with the intent of targeting the American market.
One Road to Freedom
Cross Situational Leaderboards, which is when one ranking system is used across the board for typically unequal gaming scenarios, can be a problem in games. For example, the online poker boom in 2007 caused poker ranking systems to merge into a ´Globe Poker Index´ to give a solution to all the complains that having rankings based on different criteria generated. Scientology works to avoid this by offering only one single path to follow, which is “The Bridge” as mentioned above.
Talk to Us
Real Time Feedback has been utilized in many games in form of scores and progress markers with the intention of making the player more motivated. Scientology utilizes this concept for members’ induction and progression through the system of training and auditing. During these auditing sessions, the auditors (teachers) give real time feedback in order to influence members to purchase certain courses which would help them to grow on the right direction.
Go to the Next Level
The Progression Dynamic game mechanic can be seen in games like Angry Birds, where beating one level is how you access the next. Scientology uses much of the same mindset when going through “The Bridge;” it shows logical progression through the process of enlightenment. Actually, the Progression through the Church of Scientology has been made very complex and much segmented as observed on this chart. In some scenarios, difficult progression towards the goal combined with other game mechanics, makes the game even more additive to players.
You will understand when you are older
Games have objectives, and those objectives will lead to other objectives as you clear them. For example, while playing a game, you may kill a number of monsters to gain a level, which gives you new abilities. This game mechanic is called Cascading information theory, where information is given in small snippets in order to gain appropriate understanding at each point during a narrative. Scientology uses this by achieving enlightenment through gradient steps; each step gives a bit more information than the last.
Yes, We Can
In a game like World of Warcraft, you play for a particular side, whether it’s the Horde or the Alliance. The side that you play on has certain symbols that you see on flags, tabards, and other game graphics. These symbols help to increase loyalty; people feel as if they are a part of one of those factions. They feel more connected and part of a community. Scientology does the same things through their Friday Graduation Ceremonies and their use of the Cross and the ARC triangle in those ceremonies.
Mr. Cobb has a job offer he would like to discuss with you
Lastly, the Meta Game. This game mechanic is where a game is layered within another game, usually a discovery instead of an explanation. Those who find them feel powerful; for example, completing achievements in World of Warcraft is considered a Meta Game. In scientology, the story of Xenu is the underlining story; it is considered a sacred and secret revelation that is taught to elite members only in the last levels of their path to Thethan.
As you can see, Scientology success is based on the use of various game mechanics. It is interesting to note that the Church of Scientology was incorporated in 1953 way before the gamification concept even was brought forward in 2002 by Nick Pelling.
Today, several businesses offer Gamification consulting, technology and applications for business, marketing, education amongst others. Are those companies really offering something new, or is it an old knowledge that has been reworked for modern day applications?
Do you have any thoughts on the comparisons between the two? Have you manage to identify even more game mechanics in Scientology?
Share your thoughts in the comments!