Gamification 2014, 8 Challenges

Continuing my line of thoughts from the previous post, I would like to share some of the challenges that this methodology will have in the coming months, especially throughout 2014. I encourage you to analyze whose of the following do you agree with (or don’t)... and whose are missing, in your opinion and experience.

If you do not want to do that now, don’t worry… the net will be filled with this kind of predictions about gamification around November (maybe you detect irony at criticizing predictions with one prediction… you have a good eye :D ) .

1. Integrating gamification with other disciplines

It’s not the first time I say that gamification uses old techniques in a “refurbished package". We should gradually build our own “corpus”... and the first step is to have an open community and a shared language which boost worldwide debate on gamification "to a new level " (Yes, the pun is not accidental).

Warning: To Integrate is NOT the Bud Spencer Tracy Effect
I don’t share the emphasis put by some professionals at reinforcing the absolute novelty of everything that involves gamification… It does much more harm than good to the professional image of the industry (as gamified techniques drink from obvious scientific and non-scientific sources).

2 . Build a powerful and respected professional community
We are moving fast in this line, although I’m not sure what the final configuration of the community will look like (ie. its degree of openness to the public and the unity among its members).

3 . Gamification’s KPI
So we have a lot of data (big and small) what do we do with them? Massive amounts of info doesn’t mean accurate and reliable analytics that helps decision making. I’m afraid that these huge data could be used simply to have a pool of choices to select those that confirm our initial hypotheses, and not for true analysis (Do you remember what happened with “big data” from eLearning in 2012?)

It will also be interesting to see how the professional community try to get to common grounds regarding the minimum levels of ROI, efficient performance measurement…

Mathematical and simulation experts will have much to say here, and will have to make a collective effort to find and share those key indicators that really are of some significance.

4. The ethics of gamification
The great Andrzej Marczewski (whose ideas humbly recommend following if you don’t do that already) has been very insistent and I think he is absolutely right.

What would happen when gamification ethics clashes against the customer needs? I have not seen much movement in this line of thought (or other alike), beyond words from  Marczewski  or Zichermann to clarify.

Why is this so important? Gamification is based partly on persuasion. You try to modify users perception on some behaviors to make them appear as more desirable than others. Maybe gamification is not morally "good" or "bad " (it is a tool, same as a hammer): Ethics comes from the intentions of the gamification designers (same as you can use a hammer to hit a nail or someone’s head).

Therefore, a new challenge for the professionals who use it (don’t use gamification to hit user’s heads, please).

Playful design... Everything is acceptable?

5 . Scalability
To become useful to a large number of users , gamification projects should be addressed as something modular and progressive. Not every company can afford megaprojects at the beginning (due to financial… or cultural issues)- and, just as has happened in the world of eLearning, we also should be able to find our SCORM and our segmentation methods in order to afford self paced gamified projects.

6 . Cloning succesful projects or "indie gamification"?
At some point someone will design our gamification’s Alkalabeth: A successful project that will serve as a keyframe for general population, a flagship and a template for the creation of new projects.

(If you have been on some gamification speeches, the apparently mandatory apparition of the piano stairs video by as an example of gamification follows a similar pattern… although used to exhaustion).

Obviously this reference project will have a double edge: Customers will want THAT, thinking that it will give them the benefit already generated in other companies (I hear future broken expectations here). As "collateral damage" customers could discard other projects that do not align themselves with the former pattern (what I call gamification indie), perceiving them as less useful.

Being able to maintain a core of best practices without limiting creativity and innovation will be a major challenge for professionals using gamification .

7. Transform gamification into social activity
Although it applies to groups, many of gamification initiatives have some flare of individual journey. “The others” are generally used only as a reference for your progression, as a external motivator (read “competition”) or as a tool to enhance your own advancement.

Do you know a gamification project where the weight is focused more on the social part and not on the individual? I don’t. I think we might look towards some cooperative board games to find effective game mechanics to achieve this goal.

Feeling epic? You should!
8. Create interactive, committed and attractive experiences. Really.
Designing killer gameplay (I’m using the videogame term) would not necessarily depend on technology or on a specific game mechanic, but on emotions and storytelling. Gamification projects should make users Think and Feel. Should make people want to tell their grandchildren (or buddies ) about “the life/game”. Feeling pride. Making people feel epic.

As I said at the beginning, these are some of the challenges that lie ahead on the road. I did not make an exhaustive list, just the ones I see that are more relevant from my experience and from the discussions that we maintain in the professional community.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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