Do we need Gamification?

As my mind relaxes from last weeks SAMR analysis for gamification article (which has been my most popular post ever I think!!), I got to thinking – do we need gamification, why does it actually exist?

Gamification has been born out of 1 core problem, engagement. People wanted new ways to keep potential users of their content engaged over time. Now here content can be anything from website blogs, to education to jobs! It is getting harder and harder to keep peoples attention in a world where new content is being created and pumped out to the masses every second.

I found this great site – which actually visualises what is happening on the internet every second. It recons that there are currently about 8,000 tweets sent per second! The web shifts 24,360GB of traffic per second, Google is searched 46,368 times per second.

People are distracted to say the least, either at work, at school, during leisure time or just on the bus – it is hard to get noticed and when you get noticed, you have to stay noticed!

Gamification was born in its current state to try and help keep peoples attention focused on what you wanted them to focus on, so games or PBL systems were added to create a bit of novelty as well as a reason to keep repeating actions (such as coming back to a website, or entering more data). With these systems in place, there was more than just the core content to keep you interested.

The trouble here is, gamification isn’t addressing the core problem of engagement. It is being used to distract you away from the core problem, rather than fix it! As Frankie Boyle once said “Ooo, look at the shiny shiny…”.

At the 2012 GSummit, Dr Richard Bartle gave a presentation about a game designers view of gamification. In his conclusion he gave what I feel is the single finest line against a lot of gamification we have seen in the past.

Game designers find gamification weird

–We would be appalled if our games were so bad we had to bribe people to play them

The video below starts at the conclusion slide, you can rewind to see the rest. Actually it is an interesting talk as he is introduced as having created the Player Types that are core to all gamification design, however by the end of it he says actually – it shouldn’t be! Love it 🙂

As time has gone by, gamification has evolved and people are looking more at what I would call “Motivational design” or “Intrinsic motivation”. They are looking at how to redesign experiences such as education or careers to improve how they motivate people. When you look at games, you can see this in action all the time. Most don’t play the game purely for the shiny stuff, like the PS4 Achievements. You play the game because at some intrinsic level it is enjoyable and that motivates you to continue to play. It could be the story, or the nature of the action. It may be that it gives you a chance to create and explore. For some, the achievements will then motivate them to play differently (eg, exploring every corner of a game to find new achievements and trophies).

No longer are we just talking about sticking a patch on broken systems, we are speaking about redesigning them and making them more about the individuals experience. Learning at your own pace in a way that suits you. Working with a carefully constructed career path, measurable and achievable short and long term goals. Websites with points and badges… oh wait…., well not everything is perfect yet! However, even there people are looking more at user journeys and ways to create either narrative or mission structures around consuming content.

Do we need gamification? No we don’t. However, that is in the same way as we don’t really need mobile phones or cars. We could function just fine without them in the past, but now we have them they make everyday life easier. The same should be true of gamification. It should make life either easier is some way, more enjoyable or at least an improvement on what was there before. Personally I feel that striving to achieve that certainly makes it a worthwhile pursuit!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or by doing the quick poll below.

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