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Why gamification misses the point.
I recently read an interesting article that did what gamer designers do so well. It modeled, with great hilarity, the wost attributes of gamification sins. You can check it out for yourself.
What I like most about this article is that it does not once blast any vitriole at gamification, but rather it parodies gamification and teaches you what not to do if you think that gamifying something is the way to make it "better."
So, because I am a teacher, I feel compelled to write an article that looks at some key issues related to gamification and why so many non-gamers seem to be missing the point.
First, what the heck happened? It seems that gamification went from an unknown term to a giant buzzword to a banished pariah by those in the know in about as much time as it took to read those words. I have to admit, I missed the "craze." I have always been a proponent of game design and its use to do more than simply babysit. That said, I also have learned the hard way that games need to be well made if they are going to achieve their goals. Suffice to say, there was games, then there was gamification, then there was the shunning of gamification.
Is gamification bad? The answer is (according to the magic eight ball) unclear. Gamification as a concept is good and there are many success stories where gamification has lead to positive results. What I find interesting is that gamification discussions tend to focus on game mechanics. This article gets into it from a social media perspective and there are good links from there to more gamification info.
For me, as a game designer, I have always argued that story comes first. With story comes characters. Game mechanics allow us to engage with the characters to work through the stories interactively. Game mechanics alone don't make something boring more interesting. Gamification has become the new lipstick on the pit bull. Just because a master reaches enlightenment on a rock by the river doesn't mean that you will acheive enlightment if you sit on a rock by the river. There are other things required to make the gamification process a success beyond applying some rudimentary game play tricks... rather, the more game play mechanics you introduce the more you need to introduce the other game elements to support it.
Gamers have learned that gameplay alone does not result in a great game. Without proper game design, you can fall flat on your face. This is true of any kind of product offering. If you set an expectation, you better live up to it. The simple fact is, if you give people the impression that they are playing a game, it better offer the consistency that people have come to expect from gameplay. With the rise of casual gaming, gameplay is even more ubiquitous than ever before. This puts greater pressure on those who are considering gamification to do their research and get a real game designer involved.
Some things to consider:
- Are you putting a layer of fun over a layer of boring?
If you are using gamification to make your boring activity more fun, think again. Your problem might be at the root of how you are doing business. Hire a business analyst to work on simplifying the boring stuff. You might discover that a couple of changes to your business processes will solve more problems than layering on more "fun" that really isn't.
- Are you able to add a story element with characters that are integrated into the interaction?
Is this something that can be shared in a narrative form? Consider exploring the notion of personization. A List Apart has an excellent post on this topic. If you streamline your business processes and add some personality, you are 80% of the way to greater customer engagement.
- How much time/energy is your audience expected to invest?
The more effort your audience has to put in, the less they will want to be distracted from getting the tasks done. Rewarding them with something as a result of doing the task (and making them aware of the award) is an age-old tactic to motivate someone to finish what they started.
- What is the pay-off?
Does the gamfication lead to a pay-off that your customer will be happy with? You might think you are being generous, but the customer might not. Do the work to determine if you are getting people more interested in doing the tasks you need them to complete and ensure the pay-off is worth the effort.
I am just scratching the surface on this, there is much more to share.
Guru Digital Arts Collegeon