Buzz Words That Suck: "Gamification"

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
— Inigo Montoya
Photo by    JESHOOTS.COM    on    Unsplash

Gamification is a really stupid word. Well, it is NOW anyway. When Jane McGonigal first introduced the concept at the Ted2010 conference, in her talk entitled Gaming Can Make a Better World, I don't believe she anticipated what the concept has become today.

McGonigal's original idea was that the time we spend gaming should go up because gamers learn extremely valuable social and mental skills the more they spend time in game worlds. If we could leverage these skills, we could solve big world problems by applying gaming feedback mechanisms in the real world. She postulates that there is a sense among people, young people especially, that the experience of the real world isn't as good as in a game. So if you could apply gaming concepts to real world problems (like oil shortages or the destruction of the planet), you could engage gamers to use their skills and create global, sweeping positive change.

What a fantastic idea right? So how did that get bastardized into every productivity tool "gamifying" their users' experiences to try and increase their desire to work?

Let's look at FourSquare. Remember that one? Now it's something different, but 7-10 years ago it was originally a game where you checked in when you went places and received badges for interacting with the game in the real world. Until the point when people realized that the badges didn't mean anything and they didn't care about them. It became meaningless and so the "game" went out of favor.

What's the effect of those productivity tools that are trying it? Some of the members at Raika once worked on a project where the marketing director insisted that the more gamification we applied to the product, the more people would interact with the tool and the more successful it would be. The product was essentially a digital asset management system. Shouldn't that tool do what it says it will do (manage my digital assets), do it spectacularly well, and do it quickly and efficiently? That's not how games work; games are designed to pull you in and make you stay. They are designed to trigger addiction mechanisms so that you are immersed in the game world. 

I don't want to be immersed in my work like that, and frankly I've never had a productivity tool that was so fantastic that it could solve world hunger. You make that tool, and I'll get on board with gamifying it. But in a world where work-life balance is a concept we must encourage  because we're already workaholics, it seems immensely irresponsible to try and further suck a person into doing more work just because they are addicted to your product.

Want to create real value and hook people to your product for the long term? SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM. Stop trying to invent a problem (that they aren't having enough fun doing their task) and actually solve the problem they have! Doing so quickly and efficiently frees your users up for the real work, that which McGonigal has proposed. THAT work is worth immersing ourselves in; not managing photos and videos.

Crazytown. We'd rather be the mayor of "getting shit done"!

By: Cynthia Delaria, CEO/COO @ Raika Technologies, LLC; Jane McGonigal is an active game designer, speaker and an advocate for the Institute for the Future, an organization that designs games specifically for the purpose of changing the world.