Last year, we visited Chris Collins at High Fidelity in San Francisco and learned how they are creating an open source and immersive virtual reality environment. While there, we were told an insightful tale about the power of gamification, which we find relevant to the practice of building information modeling (BIM) in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. We'll relate the story and then extend it to how we believe gamification can be added to BIM.
High Fidelity subscribes to open source practices and does software development through paid, semi-paid, and volunteer mechanisms. They came across a particular computing task they needed to perform so they turned to their community for help. Users of the High Fidelity environment could allow their computers to be accessed when idle to assist with large-scale computational processing, in a manner similar to the SETI project's use of volunteers' idle computers.
Gamification entered into this task somewhat inadvertently. Gamification is the application of game elements – like scoring, leaderboards, and achievement levels – to non-game topics. High Fidelity unintentionally gamified their task when they added a dynamic list of the highest contributing users for their processing task. Once users knew they were being measured and compared, they went about trying to contribute in bigger ways. Some users virtualized machines to increase their computing power while others used networks of physical machines. In short, they started competing for the bragging rights of being the biggest contributor even though there was no prize.
The power of gamification is realized when you combine measurement, the opportunity to apply skill or strategy, and a method of recognition. When these elements combine, people will start to compete with each other. How does this relate to BIM?
BIM is full of skill and strategy, and if we add measurement and recognition, gamification can become a viable method of work in BIM. So what are we proposing?
If you're on a project, we suggest you make the following week-to-week measurements for each trade:
- How many elements were added?
- How many elements were changed or deleted?
If you then post these numbers in a public place, you can see if they change the behavior of your modeling teams. Adding elements is a positive effort because it demonstrates progress towards completion; changing elements is a negative effort because it demonstrates that the modeling work wasn't correctly planned in advance. Even though the correction of clashes is a positive outcome, the existence of clashes in the first place is an overall negative. If you can, come up with a scoring system to incentivize outstanding effort.
Peter Druker famously said, "That which is measured, improves." Gamification takes it one step further. In the words of Mike Singletary, "You know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."
Make sure to check out our website and see the work we’re doing in computational BIM and the automation of MEP modeling. BuildingSP is at the forefront of the application of generative design to AEC, and we look forward to better tools changing how we specify BIM on projects. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.