The Dark Side Of The Gamification Of Work
I wrote for Wired:
But some believe gamification may do more harm than good. Kathy Sierra, a game designer who has given talks on the dark side of gamification, tells Wired that game designers and scholars are almost universally against gamification.
As Sierra points out, gamification replaces an intrinsic reward with an extrinsic one. In other words, it shifts a participant’s motivation from doing something because it is inherently rewarding to doing it for some other reason that isn’t as meaningful. This, she says, is ultimately less motivating.
Sierra cites research from University of Rochester psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, which was popularized by Dan Pink’s book Drive. Deci and Ryan concluded that the most powerful motivators for employees are the mastery of the task at hand, autonomy, and something called relatedness, which might involve helping a customer with a meaningful problem. Gamification replaces these motivators with extrinsic motivators like points and badges.
The other problem is that gamified applications aren’t necessarily fun. Most of what is called gamification would be better described as pointsification, according to game designer Margaret Robertson. “What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience,” she wrote in a 2010 blog post
Full Story: Wired Enterprise: How ‘Gamification’ Can Make Your Customer Service Worse
Game Mechanic of the Day: The Super Mushroom in Super Mario Brothers
Why is the Super Mushroom an awesome game mechanic? My friend Jesse Combs tells you why on his new blog Game Mechanic of the Day:
1. When the game originally came out, video games were hard, very hard. If a bad guy hit your platform-jumping character, that was it. Start the level over until you ran out of lives. If you’re just learning the game, that really doesn’t encourage you if you’re still trying to get better at it. Being able to get hit without starting over is big, since you can still realize you screwed up without being wholly penalized. It’s kind of like having a save game point, except there are still consequences to getting hit. (Two hits and you really are dead.)
2. It’s a simple way for a character to have health without getting meta and having a “health bar” or “meter”. It keeps the game within it’s own strange fiction and makes the mechanical rewards part of the universe that Mario lives in. Yep, immersion.
Game Mechanic of the Day: Mario grows bigger and stronger when he gets a Super Mushroom. If he’s hit by an enemy, he’ll shrink back to standard Mario
The Gamification of Work
I wrote a follow-up of sorts to my post here The Problem with Gamification:
With all this in mind, is it possible to effectively apply game mechanics to work-related applications? The jury’s still out on Rypple and Moxie’s implementation of badges, but I’m hopeful about both. Meanwhile, Pietro Polsinelli has written an essay on game mechanics and how he applied game design to his social bookmarking/task management web app Licorize. Polsinelli considered how certain common game activities correlate to activities in the application and added points and scoring to those activities. The essay is well worth reading for anyone interested in game mechanics in work related applications.
ReadWriteWeb: Buzzword Watch: The Gamification of Work
The Problem with Gamification
Margaret Robertson gets to the core of the problem I’ve had with my thinking on how to apply game mechanics effectively to non-game situations:
That problem being that gamification isn’t gamification at all. What we’re currently terming gamification is in fact the process of taking the thing that is least essential to games and representing it as the core of the experience. Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards. They’re great tools for communicating progress and acknowledging effort, but neither points nor badges in any way constitute a game. Games just use them – as primary school teachers, military hierarchies and coffee shops have for centuries – to help people visualise things they might otherwise lose track of. They are the least important bit of a game, the bit that has the least to do with all of the rich cognitive, emotional and social drivers which gamifiers are intending to connect with.
She’s not completely pessimistic about it, and neither am I:
Gamification is the wrong word for the right idea. The word for what’s happening at the moment is pointsification. There are things that should be pointsified. There are things that should be gamified. There are things that should be both. There are many, many things that should be neither.
It’s important that we make the distinction between the two undertakings because, amidst all this confusion, we’re losing sight of the question of what would happen if we really did apply the deeper powers of game design to more everyday things – if we really did gamify them – and that question is a fascinating, exciting and troubling one. I really hope we get a chance to explore it properly.
Hide & Seek: Can’t play, won’t play