Roundup: Ongoing Gamification Debate

Gamification as a buzz word seems to be picking up steam and there’s a lot of conversations going on about the topic these days. After my recent post defining gamification and giving examples of it, I’ve pulled together a roundup and quick summary of the topics.

To start off, the web can’t seem to decide whether or not gamification is a real word. Wikipedia deleted the word from its index and since then it’s reappeared again. There also seems to be a disagreement about whether it’s spelled gamification vs. gameification, and it looks like a pretty even heat. Trying to decide by the number of Google search results shows 33,100 results for the former and 46,600 results for the latter.

The term gamification also seems to inspire some vehement dislike.

On a related thread, there’s a disagreement about whether or not gamification is even a legitimate topic or even the right word. There’s a discussion on whether or not it’s actually just badgeification or pointsification. Whatever the semantics, it seems at least the concept of game mechanics is here to stay. This particular debate seems to be a narrower interpretation of gamification as simply adding as simply inserting a points/badge system on top of everything.

Then finally, imho one of the most interesting and polarizing discussions on gamification is whether or not gamification in products is actually a good thing. After all, why put a game into a non-game context? It seems to me that the advice on whether or not to gamify your product stems from a fear that the result of gamification is a thin veneer of game mechanics slapped onto your products and service. The logical conclusion here is that products must still create underlying value and content, and game mechanics have to make sense in the context of the product.

This dislike of gamification as an idea actually reminds me Chris Hecker’s GDC talk “Achievements Considered Harmful?” where he questions whether or not the proliferation of extrinsic motivators such as achievements and rewards (hello Zynga) are actually hurting games.

Like I said in my earlier post, the concept of gamification is not new. The term is new, but the idea of incentivizing customers through reward and loyalty programs has been around for a long time. Gamification is simply another lense with which to examine customer engagement. The distinction here is that we’re not talking about actually making products into games here, but how we can incorporate elements from game design into products to make them more engaging.

What do you think? Is gamification just a buzzword, or a real topic that is here to stay?

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2 thoughts on “Roundup: Ongoing Gamification Debate

  1. Great overview of the current debate around gamification (I vote for Bunchball’s version of how the word is spelling, BTW). I appreciate your point that this is not a new concept. As someone who consults in the loyalty marketing industry, we’ve been using game mechanics for decades — specifically points, tiers and rewards — to drive behavior. Our challenge is that our programs, when viewed through a game designer lens, are really pretty lousy games. I think gamification offers my space the opportunity to truly adopt a game designer mentality, rather than just dancing around the edges of it. That means moving from a pedestrian application of points and tiers to using game mechanics to make loyalty programs that are more social, competitive, cooperative, challenging, and even random. That is much more than simple “pointsification” of a consumer experience.

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