Making life into a game is this year’s hot trend. So much so, that the term Gamification made this years short-list for Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Entrepreneur Magazine ranked gamification as the #7 business trend of 2011. Over the past eight to twelve months, engaging and highly popular TED videos have spawned exhaustive debates on the topic and SXSW premiered several new products, services and presentations with and about gamification principles.
The claim is that gamification is a righteous concept for increasing productivity and engagement. This is done by applying game theory to the mundane, everyday task-oriented duties of our work life. Borrowing from the location-based mobile platform, is this truly the solution to “making the real world easier to use?” I’m not yet convinced.
The common approach to gamification is an attempt to turn something that is not a game into a game. Aside from successful platforms like Nike+ by R/GA, the majority of marketers are NOT taking all aspects of a great game under consideration. By definition, gamification involves the integration of game design techniques and mechanics into a website, service, community, content or campaign, in order to solve problems, drive participation and engage audiences. The vast majority of products and services try to do this by integrating rewards and leaderboards into a non-game experience. For example; The task management system I use for work gives me a “rock-star” badge if I complete all of my priority tasks for today. Check out the Facebook endorsed cloud-based social performance management platform by Rypple. ( http://www.rypple.com ) Does this really convert my work experience into a game? I am a gamer and it’s safe to say that scoring a virutal badge for work still feels nothing like a game.
The common misconception by marketers and product developers is that all you have to do to gamify something is to add points and rewards. Yet, rewards and scoreboards are not games. Sebastian Deterding in his presentation about the potential pitfalls of gamification states that gamification–in this context–is actually just pointsification. Margaret Robertson’s “Can’t Play, Won’t Play” even goes as far as saying gamification is an inadvertent con. “It tricks people into believing that there’s a simple way to imbue their thing… with the psychological, emotional and social power of a great game.” What people are missing is the concept of what makes a great game. It’s not about the rewards, leaderboards and achievements… it’s about the game itself. This includes the story, design, interactivity, music, sound, personalization, and all the other aspects and depth of a game experience.
If this gamification concept used in my work life was anywhere near as engaging as Battlefield 3, Uncharted or World of Warcraft – then I could seriously get behind it. The simple truth is that it is falling short. I am a big fan of the concept and see the potential, so I hope this post is a call to action for my team, other marketers and product developers. Let’s remember that we need to think beyond just points and rewards. Let’s work towards maturing gamification towards meaningful design that takes into consideration the ENTIRE game experience.