Why I think ‘gamification’ is a terrible buzzword

Today I’ll write about something a bit unrelated to game development. “Oh but the title says otherwise”, you may argue with me. Let me explain, it won’t take long. Ah, and I’m assuming you already know, at least superficially, what gamification is, ok?

Recently, I’m seeing and reading and hearing more and more about the term. People come talk to me because, well, I make games, of course I’ll be interested in gamifying my surroundings! That isn’t exactly the case.

From my perspective, a game have basically two main parts: a challenge, or goal, and a made up set of rules, or simply, the mechanics. Attaching scores, rankings and prizes to an existing task won’t turn it into a game, no matter how much fun those elements can add. The most important part are the mechanics, and in the so called process of gamifying, none are created, because they already exists.

Let’s say you’re a bartender, but you hate being one (it’s just an example, I’m not implying anything here). That is currently the only way you can earn some money. If someone says that you now earn 10 points for each drink you make, and that those points will make your closer to being the best employee of the month, does it change the fact that you find your job so depressing?

There’s one thing I should make clear. I’m not against the process, by itself. I do believe that the involved concepts, if well used, can increase motivation, commitment and productivity of a team. My problem is with the way people are understanding it. Oh, you’re using the scores to distribute prizes? Call it a ‘reward program’. Are the generated coins giving you a better insight of the current situation of your company? That’s, maybe, Business Intelligence, but definitely not a game. It’s incredible how a misleading word can turn ‘boring’ into ‘cool’ in a matter of seconds.


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