Gamification: Response to a Rant

Oh, gamification, you've been quite the hot topic here on MotivatePlay, though (I would like to think) this has more to do with gamification's popularity in the media at large lately than a bias on our part. Whatever the case, we have tried to approach the topic with some level of even-handedness and scientific rigor, but let's not forget that opinions are sharply divided on the gamification's merits. This recent post (self-identified as a rant) on Gizmodo is an wholly unambiguous example of the anti-gamification argument.

This perspective seems to echo other criticisms of gamification, but gets at a simpler - and perhaps deeper - point. If you have to gamify something to get me to do it, why should I spend my time on it in the first place?

The simple response to this is that gamification is good for getting you engaged in activities that you know you ought to be spending time on, but that you might forego without the added incentive of badges and so on. Something like the Nike+ system comes to mind here - who doesn't need that extra push to go for a jog? (The article includes this exact example as a case of 'bad' gamification, which completely confounds me, but let's not digress...). But what about the hijinks of companies like Badgeville, which seek to gamify all sorts of systems not as the solution to a legitimate motivational problem, but rather as a transparent customer-retention and money-making strategy? This is what really seems to ruffle the feathers of our friend at Gizmodo, and is where his argument has a bit more validity.

But we've beaten that horse to death several times over here, I'm afraid, so click that last link if you're curious about the point. Rather than review the merits of whether or not gamification as it stands is ethical/appropriate/choose-your-own-adjective, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this: It doesn't really matter.

Okay, it matters now, but within a few years, I'm predicting that gamification will have become so widespread that consumers will stop caring about it, at least in those contexts where it's a blatant marketing tool that doesn't solve a real problem for the user (as do things like Nike+). It's simply unrealistic for every web-based service to be gamified (and the current trend is definitely pointing in this direction). Consumers only have so much attention to give, and if every site you visit is trying to rope you into a game just to get more ad clicks (or whatever) out of you, you will - by necessity - learn to stop caring, and only spend your time on those gamified systems that really have something to offer you.

Despite some people's opinions, gamification can be great for both users and companies, but it's quickly wiggling its way into places where it just doesn't work, and I'm betting that consumers are going to realize this once the market is sufficiently over-saturated with half-baked gamification attempts. I'm essentially proposing that we don't need to worry all that much the gamification "problem"; my money's on it fixing itself in due time. But then again I certainly could be wrong. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.

Gamification: Response to a Rant by Jared Lorince, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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