according to Wikipedia, is " is the use of game play mechanics for non-game consumer technology applications." Our own Audrey Watters defined game mechanics as a "rule-based system for scoring, setting goals, and allocating rewards." A related idea is the "Gamepocalypse," Jesse Schell's hypothetical future in which everything is gamified. Wikipedia emphasizes consumer applications, but the enterprise is not exempted from the gamification trend. But will it actually make work any better?Gamification,
ReadWriteWeb guest blogger Ethan Stillman wrote that "Having a game mechanic integrated into your product is effectively a launch requirement at this point," referring to consumer applications. Foursquare has popularized "badges" as a reward system and the model has spread to many applications. Now services like Big Door and Badgevill offer "game mechanics in a box" for virtually any web site. "Badge mania" has started to spread into enterprise software now, finding its way into products such as Rypple and Moxie.
Writing for the site Hide & Seek, Margaret Robertson points out a fatal flaw in so-called "gamification":
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.
Robertson writes that "gamification," as it's currently practiced, would more accurately be termed "poinstification." For a game to be truly engaging, players must be able to make decisions that "meaningfully impact on the world of the game."
Apart from the pitfalls already mentioned, it's worth mentioning that as Douglas Rushkoff writes "fun at work" is not the same as "fun as work." Rushkoff wrote about a company that attempted to make its work place more "fun":
it has nothing to do with the work at hand, but completely extraneous bouts of silliness, as in: "About 100 cans of silly string were placed around the building, and when employees got their hands on them, this building just exploded. It was an absolute blast."
As I try to explain in the "follow the fun" chapter of Get Back in the Box, efforts like this are really stupid, and actually defeat the whole point. By making the "fun" at work extraneous - external and unrelated - to the boring and dull work that people are actually doing, it only exacerbates the problem. It's like giving kids dessert as a "reward" for finishing the main part of the meal. Why do they need a reward? Because the main meal tastes terrible!
If the aim of game mechanics is to make work more engaging, then the mechanics need to be applied to actual business processes. It shouldn't be time-wasting games tacked on to something else.
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.
Finally, I can't write an article on gamification without mentioning Jane McGonigal. McGonigal has been applying game design to real-world problems for years, from exercise to recovering from an injury or coping with a chronic condition.
Photo by andi.vs.zf