Put up or Shut up and stop moaning about gamification.

So, for my final post of the week (as I seem to have subconsciously challenged myself to blog all week), I want to throw a curve ball out there. If I am honest it is a brain dump and a rant. So strap in and enjoy the ride.

I have talked about gamification being a benign form of manipulation in the past.  I don’t think anyone within gamification who has any sense will disagree, gamification is manipulative. It is manipulative in the same way as marketing, or parenting. It is manipulative in the same way that society manipulates you on a day to day basis to go to work every day. Our society has been built on the idea that we should all be doing something. For some that is moving paper around. For others it is making the moving of paper more efficient.  For very few people is it anything truly meaningful. If we are honest, very few jobs are meaningful. We are not all doctors or nurses or fire-fighters or teachers etc. We work to pay tax, to buy food and because that is what we are told to do.

Gamification is aimed at creating more efficiency, better work environments, better systems, more engagement, higher levels of motivation and more. People say that it is there to make people do dull tasks and not complain – because they get badges. That is not what it is truly there for and in reality we are already seeing that that mentality just doesn’t work. People say that Companies are employing Gamifiers to manipulate their workers into being more efficient, working harder and being happier doing it. That said, view, so what if they are?

If I am an employer, the likelihood is that I want my workforce to do the job I am paying them for and to do it well. Otherwise, I would not be employing them. If I hear there is a new method out there of driving this kind of increased productivity and engagement from my staff – why would I choose not to try it? This probably brings to mind images of some kind of Machiavellian archetype.

The trouble is no that they want to use it; it is more how they want to use it and why.  If you have disengaged employees, you need to consider a few other things before you worry about gamification.  They may be disengaged and have low motivation because of pay, it may be unfair treatment, it may be that some who won’t suck up to the boss are getting left behind. These are all things that need to be addressed before gamification can work. However, once those things are dealt with, is there still a need for gamification? I still say yes. Why not make happy employees happier? Why not give them even more things to love about working for you? If they don’t like it – give them the option to opt out. Gamification should not make employees less happy in their work – that is pointless. As I have said before, you can’t fix a broken system by sticking gamification on it – that will just make it worse.

Life is full of manipulation. Deal with it and move on. Gamification is not hypnosis, it is not mind control. If it is done right, it can make decent environments better. If it is applied to environments that are already broken and is not part of a plan of proper improvements – it is going to fail anyway.

I am tired of defending gamification to people who are not willing to accept that it can be done better than it is being done at the moment. I am tired of gamification being compared to games. I am tired of people having a go – rather than suggesting a better way.

Put up or shut up. Stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. Until you are ready to do that, back off and let the rest of us get on with what we are trying to do.

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13 thoughts on “Put up or Shut up and stop moaning about gamification.”

  1. By the way: when designing you have a choice between being transparent and being opaque. I mean you can be straight-up about your manipulation, or you can try to skillfully hide your manipulative intentions. I myself believe in being transparent, I believe that is where the future is. People will be too smart to fool. If they llike your brand, your cause or whatever, they won’t mind giving you something (profile info for example) for a little discount. I like it better that way.

    • I think transparency is key when you fully launch. It can be of use to put metric tracking in place prior to launch, just to get an idea of where the pain points may be. As you say, people are to smart to fool for long, so best to not try!
      Andrzej Marczewski
      Sent from my mobile device

  2. Hi Andrzej, good post. Gamification sure is manipulative! That is pretty much the definition of a tool, no? An object or concept or working method created with the intention to manipulate the environment. Be it physical, emotional, political, economical or spiritual. That’s why controlling fire was such a big deal for us humans… 😉

    Did you by chance read my blog post on life as a game? It deals with some issues you might find interesting in the light of this post. Here’s a link if you want to check it out:

    Thanks anyway, always a good idea to stop by here for a good read!

  3. Nice article, especially stating gamification is manipulative. The trick is to design it so it is (or seems) less manipulative. I think most of us have seen some ugly, extremely manipulative systems, the base level being “give us all your contact info for 5% off”. Ugh. So we designers and developers need to really accept the challenge of designing and developing better systems.

    • Exactly. Had that at a toy shop. With my daughter and they offer her a treasure hunt map for the store as a bit of fun. They give it to her then tell me I need to give them my name and address for her to be able to play. Urm ….

  4. There are so many people out there that just don’t GET IT. Unfortunately we need some of these people to get our projects going and prove that Gamification is truly worth it and will be successful. I totally get you!

  5. when we talk gamification with other peopel,they just think it’s a game.They consider it subconsciously as something bad.


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