Gamification: Reloaded (EN)

Each time I’m asked about what “gamification” is, I find difficult to keep answering "the use of game elements in non-game contexts".

Truth is, offering the statement above I’m able to stay calm and keep going, because it is one of those combinations of words with punch, and saying them with certain seriousness in your face the other part would easily think that you have all the logic in the world and that there is nothing more to add. Basically, if you read Deterding's paper or watch some of his talks , you would discover that the answer of the previous paragraph takes a phrase out of context to give a "marketed" answer (as in marketing, or sales, if you catch my gist).
Sticky answer, but... useful?

Where do I think we can improve the answer?

1. Focusing the gamification methodology exclusively in the use of a specific element (such as game elements) implies degrading it to a mere recipe, stripping it of its core and potential (in order, I suppose, to simplify/”marketify” the idea for future customers). Gamification is, as far as I've experience it, a design methodology ... Why not include that trait in its definition?

2.  The focus of half the definition is based on the concept of "game elements" ... Does it only sounds weird to me? An element is a "game element” because it is used in games? Is it not a bit redundant? Medals are also used in the military, aren’t they?. Leaderboards have been used to motivate sales teams for years. Progress bars ... Are they elements of a game? I suspect it would not be difficult to find examples of its use outside of that context.

Of course, we can debate that games were "the FIRST PLACE to be used", but I think arguing whether medals were used earlier in games or in the military would be as useful as arguing about what was first, chicken or eggs even if I love both for dinner.

In short, I think that rather than reinforce a definition of gamification focused on "how" do we gamify (by using elements of game), I think we should focus on the core objective of gamification: to create a fun and positive experience.

Wait a minute! But ... Gamification isn’t about engagement? Yes. And no. You should know that gamification is not a panacea: If you do not believe in certain strategies for solving certain problems, gamification is not going to help you change that. For example, doesn’t matter how many medals, storytelling, balanced flow or positive reinforcement I get, nobody is going to convince me that hitting someone is a valid technique to reach agreement (I’m being extreme here, but I’m sure you get the meaning).

What is "commitment"? Check this movie!
Of course, gamification empowers commitment indirectly (Increases the perception of certain behaviors and thoughts as more efficient and attractive to achieve personal and organizational goals) and in a definite way (It requires a gamified project with clearly identified behaviors, thoughts and values that are desired or unwanted and a set of elements to make the process transparent to the "players"). I do not think applying gamification techniques can make a person do something contrary to their values (The dreaded black gamification).

The mechanics under gamification aren’t Pavlovian (I teach food, I ring the bell and you drool), they try to enhance a user experience that encourages the same kind of attitudes we have when playing a game (not only VIDEOgames!): curiosity, perception of failure as part of learning , sense of progression, increased reasoned risk taking behavior, inner self exploration...

Black Gamification - "Your lack of faith is disturbing..."

Sooo…, my new (partial) answer to the question “What is gamification?” try to focus more on what it is (a design methodology) and what I want to achieve (positive user experience). By now I'm saying "An experience design methodology that seeks to encourage the user the same attitudes, thoughts, emotions and commitment to playing their favorite game" ... But I’m sure I’m going to keep working on it for a while.

And you may say: But, that answer leaves a person with many more questions! Hmm… It could be. But… Is this about standard, marketized responses? or we trying to talk more about gamification, here?

4 comentarios:

Unknown dijo...

From now on Victor Manrique is using this gamification definition!

Great post!!! ; )


IsidroRodrigo dijo...

LOL! Thanks for the endorsement!!!

Unknown dijo...

Great post Isidro,

What do you think about "An experience design system that seeks to encourage the users to be in the same state of being as they would be in their favorite activty.."

i think the problem is limiting the understanding to game. It is clearly attributable to being the state of "flow" as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This activity could be a game/sport/music/art anything.

I think engagification is a more appropriate term.

IsidroRodrigo dijo...


I think you're right: almost every activity could be used to generate flow.

But I don't understand why is a problem having one trend focused only in game elements as a source of meaningful experiences?:

1. Games have inherently attached in our brains different characteristics (both good and bad, but mainly good for the seeked target)

2. They're a concept known and used by the potential customer, learner or worker, usually related with pleasurable experiences

3. They're also suitable for its use in the virtual world

To sum up, I think specialization is good. As there are other activities focused in (for example) using exercise to enhance pleasurable experiences, I can't see clearly a reason to regroup all of them into one, biggest trend.

Best regards,

PS: Why not flowfication? (Just joking ;D)