Gamification is Pointless (Get It?) Pt. 2

Lookie here, Gamification, you’ve really grown! There was a time when you were considered “kid’s stuff” and “frivolous,” but now you’re a part of innovation processes, enterprise learning tools, and corporate strategies. Yeah, you’ve got that kind of chocolatey-looking mustache going on and everything.

But before we’ll let you borrow the family Camaro, we’ve got to have a talk.

Yes, you do feedback really well. You provide that same psychological nudge that pushes a runner from .9 miles to 1.0 on the treadmill, and instills the same sense of urgency as an hourglass. And by entangling that feedback with ritual play and social motivators, experiences that — OH CRAP I HAVE TO GO PLAY FARMVILLE.

But you can and must do so much more in order to really leverage the power of organized play. Listen, we know you don’t need a lecture. You already have some way smart people nurturing you out of your awkward adolescence. We just want to help.

Remember Jesse Owens? Sure you do. In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, he ran right past Hitler and yanked off both sides of his mustache. Remember his time in the 100m dash? We didn’t think so. As Bob Costas will tell you, in the game-within-a-game-within-a-sponsorship opportunity that is the Olympics, the human narrative is the thing that engages, resonates, and persists. So consider this the next time you swing your Gamification hammer:

1. The Story is the Thing

Brands that tell stories are easier to love, easier to evangelize, and easier to forgive. And games that tell stories are better designed to elicit authentic curiosity and emotional investment (not just collecting obsession). Now, does every gameplay experience require a ten-thousand-year creation myth? Of course not. But how can a gameplay experience tell the story behind a mysterious tattoo – rather than leaning on the tattoo itself for meaning?

You see, Gamification? We only want the best for you.

Now, we know you like to think of yourself as the life of the party. You may say to yourself “hey hey, when I show up, I bring the play and that brings the engagement.” But chances are, whatever website or process or product you’re fixin’ to gamify already has scores of people deeply engaged in gaming it. Heck, you might be downright redundant. Shopping is already a game. Parking is already a game. Pretending to be busy while Bill Lumbergh trolls the office? You get the picture. What we’re saying is …

2. People are Already Playing

We know that people have a predisposition for play. Ever heard of Homo Ludens? Stop giggling. Couple that with the incredible lengths that people already go to in order to hack systems, bend rules, and shirk duties. Please stop giggling. See, we think the best games are emergent, not foisted upon systems. And that if you really wanted to be the life of the party you’d make more rewarding the game that’s already there.

You’re a smart kid, Gamification, but we need to know we’re on the same page.

There’s no doubt you’ll be seen around more and more as you grow up, so it’s important that you realize that people will be influenced by you, for better or worse. While it’s points and badges today, curly-haired folks smarter than us feel that games can and will address major problems within our society. Do you think a few trivial badges will do it? Nope. The real power of games comes from the way that they organize forces and interests, frame experiences, and encourage strategic discovery. Yep,

3. Games Can do Difficult, Meaningful Work.

What? At the first mention of “difficult work” you’re turned off? Did you think you’d get by slinging virtual burgers your whole life? Gamification, I guess I expected a little more from you.

Why can’t you be more like your brother, Applied Gaming?

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