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Classic (?) Gamification Examples

As a group evolves, it is nice to see how their members gradually built their own culture (in terms of castes, myths, heroes & villains, good and bad examples…). I believe that forums such as the Gamification World Congress and the Gamification Spain MeetUps are helping at the development of robust theories about what gamification is (and is not) in Spain , and perhaps they will be the source from which our particular Alkalabeth will arise.

This process of consolidation occurs parallel to the emergence of "experts" (the quotes are not a typo :D ) that cite almost religiously those “sacred gamified examples” they recently read on the subject trying to pass them as the ultimate mana to solve all our engagement and commitment problems. Dear reader, if you are interested in hiring a professional this year 2014, the first question you should ask him/her is "What exactly is gamification?" If you get an answer like "the application of game mechanics in non- game environments " and nothing more ... fly you fools! (or calmly thank the “expert” for his/her time and tell him maybe you will call him in an undefined future) .

The first classic example that comes to mind is the piano stairs by The Fun Theory.. Good example, but in my opinion it has been used already enough times.  Curiously, its goal was not only encouraging the healthy behavior of climbing stairs, but also the positive perception towards a particular carmaker.

If you want to continue using this example, at least use other version different than the Stockholm one. I share this from Auckland (And even if it’s not related to an automotive brand, it is supported by... well, you better watch it by yourself) .


The piano stairs serves to discuss the relevance and coherence of actions and mechanics within the culture of the organization or educational institution or product/service or wherever you apply gamification. Although I insist that I think the major fault when using it in professional environments is that it has lost its impact due to overuse.

The second example is the scene where Mary Poppins sings “A Spoonful of sugar”. It has been used as a clear example of “what is gamification”. I use it myself for a while too but, analyzing it a bit more, discovered that the message is (perhaps) not the most appropriate to define the concept.

A cup " Spoonful of Sugar " style
Let me explain. Take for example this mug for breakfast. Is it cool isn’t it? Well, it depends for example on your tastes or your personal history with videogames, obviously. OK. The cup is our "spoonful of sugar": Even though it may looks cool, if I put a disgusting beverage in it surely the cool cup will not make you drink it. In the same way, if you love chocolate, you’ll probably take it… even if it is a cup with Justin Bieber images. You shall drink the awful beverage probably only if I am able to make you see the value of the intake above the negative emotion that the smell creates.

Sustainable Gamification goes beyond applying a spoonful of sugar on those tasks we find unpleasant . Gamification is a tool to clarify the meaning and value of the work we do, the visibility of our progress, the effects of our skills on results ... It is not about giving "a spoonful of sugar " to the player - student - worker - client to do the damn job, but to make sense of what they are doing.

This little difference could seems trivial, but choosing one or the other will determine the relationship generated among designer and players, and the perception of players in terms of intelligence, autonomy , competence... To name just a few.

I think 2014 should be the year to change those paradigms and examples for others, solid, data based and shared. And as I said before, the Gamification World Congress and the Gamification Spain MeetUps may surely be the places with the most potential to do so.


Will I meet you there? :D