Why Gamification “Doesn’t Exist”

5:13 PM Melinda 1 Comments


I can imagine this isn’t a post you would expect to see on a gamification blog, let alone a post written by one of the organizers of a gamification networking group, a professional who has worked on “gamification” projects with clients, or a researcher who at one point even provided her own definition for the term.

But it’s true, I, as “gamification” associated as I am, am telling you today that gamification doesn’t exist. At least not in the way we’re using it now. Currently we’re using gamification as a term for a practice. Many definitions refer to it as a “process”, something you “apply”, or a concept you “use”. But no one can really seem to agree on what exactly this practice is. Is it about adding feedback systems? Is about identifying and expanding upon intrinsic and extrinsic motivations? Is it about picking and choosing from a magical set of mechanics games use to fuel engagement? Is it even more about play than about games?

The more I’ve thought about this the more I’ve come to the conclusion that a “best practice” of gamification should be to let go of the thought that gamification exists as a practice and embrace gamification as an observation. Yes, I’m saying that the best way you can use gamification is to understand that you can’t use it at all!

We need to start seeing gamification as a conclusion our industry has come to that games do an amazing job at engaging their players. Based on this observation, we believe it is important to delve deeper into the way games are designed so that we can create stronger designs ourselves in other situations. Basically, what we’re all saying when we talk about gamification, is that games have helped us realize exactly how important the design of an experience is.

Before gamification is completely dismissed, I want to mention that this use of gamification is powerful within itself. It has led to observations and discussions and rapid innovations in the past few years. It brings together a wide mix of people - who otherwise wouldn’t have met - to events like Gamification World. It’s still going to be a useful term in bringing together ideas and people, but to continue to innovate and grow we need to stop trying to advance the practice, and instead delve deeper into design as a whole. We should pay more attention to structure - which games are well known for - not just the extras, the shiny lights, the badges. We need to let go of the idea that “gamifying” something will lead to better engagement instead of just creating a strong, well structured, design for it.

Whether the term will last or not, it’s anybody’s guess. What I do know is the movement around it, the focus on design, the emphasis on experience, will continue.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with this perspective. Maybe "gamification" is a useful transitional notion and will fade away as Game Designers are taken more and more seriously... and are becoming rightful members of the big Design family!

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