The other night, I was having a drink with Harold and the awesome Francesco Marconi from Herograph when we got talking about gamification. I was at a total loss for why hearing “gamification” sometimes makes me want to kick people in the shins.

I believe in the tenets of gamification. I believe that rewards and success achievements are huge motivators, and I’m happy that this marketing buzzword means educational games are being taken more seriously. When I watch (and rewatch, since I’m trying to make everyone I know see it) Jane McGonigal’s TED talk about games saving the world, I want to cheer. Games do change our behavior. There’s more to games than slacking off.

Why, then, do I have this nagging worry that gamification only means advergames and unfun branded titles? Is it just my elitist hipster belief that my hobbies are too good for the plebs?

I’ve not been able to clearly articulate why gamification often annoys me, but Wise Guys  (the guys behind Twistianapolis 500) recently summed it up:

I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last, but adding points and badges don’t make a game. A game is supposed to be fun, bottom line. If there are points and badges, that’s one way to measure progress, but nobody ever said, “Hey what’s that game with all the badges and points? Let’s play that one!

Via Boss Battle: Gameification on Wise Guys Events

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2 Responses to Gamification

  1. i am very interested in gamification and I dislike how people now reject ideas because they hate the buzzword. gamification is useful and all of its commercial successes (games like farmville) will bring more attention to the potential benefits of gamification in education.

    saying “the game must be fun”, however, is not gamification. of course “fun” is the crucial element, but gamification is techniques to make the users stay in the game. no matter how much “fun” a game is, players will eventually become bored because the game is old – the initial excitement is quickly lost. gamification is designed to overcome that problem. badges, points, leveling up and other techniques to keep the player in the game for longer. gamification provides motivation to play the game again and again … for a commercial game, that means increased profit.

    the reason farmville works is because there’s motivation to continue playing. if it were a simple farming game, people would tire of it in a few hours. but the gamification techniques keep people excited by giving them incremental achievements, promotion, badges.

    further (and equally important) socialization elements such as leaderboards and “sharing” their results with friends. the internet is amazing for providing the ability to make games social and it’s been proven that social gaming is a major motivation for people to play.

    gamification is important. very important. i’m annoyed that people are scoffing gamification because it’s trendy or because it’s a buzzword.

    btw, jane mcgonigal’s ted talk is great. i think her ideas are rather extreme and, as such, are bound to fail. but i think that’s not the point – the point is that she’s going in a direction that cuts a path for others. i doubt she will ever be successful in gamification, but her efforts will definitely help others find success.

    i’m no expert btw, just my $0.02 🙂

  2. Darktouch says:

    I want to play that game where I earn gold pieces so I can buy a better sword.

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