Gamification Can Kill
Cubicles are Cages for People
Let’s face it, cubicles are cages for people. If the average workplace or school were a zoo, the human society would shut it down for the one simple reason that it fails to provide the mental furniture required for people to do their job. We need Aeron chairs for the brain to focus attention and aid problem solving and enhance feelings of challenge, mastery, and accomplishment. Enterprise software, digital media tools, and even email can benefit from game-inspired engagement techniques. Schools structure kids to work in factories that no longer exist – except in Asia.
For example, We spend a lot to make sure it’s easy to print a report, yet nothing at all on enhancing the feeling of mastering difficult content or hard work.
People spend their workday inside Facebook because the social interaction has been extracted from the tasks.
Games have evolved many techniques to solve this problem
The Reason We Have this Problem is that We Know So Little About How to Create Tools that Engage, Build Skills, and Support Thought. The solution is to apply games to real life. What we need to do today is to apply this knowledge about Serious Fun to work. Serious Fun is when the fun of games changes the player and their world.
You see the problem with work today is that something missing.
You see, back in the day when we used to milk cows instead of clicking on them the task contained inherent challenges, feedback, and rewards. Workers see whether they are on target, watch as their pails fill with milk, they could talk with and help their co-workers, and at the end of the day the pails feel heavy and satisfying as they walk them back to the barn. Many of these engagement mechanics that were intrinsic to task performance and completion got left behind when work went virtual and mouse driven. Some subtle, yet vital elements for human engagement got lost in the translation to the other side of the glass.
By focusing on the task over the human system of engagement we broke the game.
In a similar way technology cages thoughts and ideas. Software frames and structures a way of working. Toys frame the way we play. Outside of games, technology and institutions are rarely designed to engender emotions except for the purposes of a sale.
Legal systems generate emotions after the crime is committed.
We alleviate workplace boredom with caffeine rather than designing work to inspire the emotions that increase performance and match the emotion profile to suit the task.
Educational systems lean on extrinsic motivators such as grades rather than intrinsic pursuit of knowledge. Schools punish failure rather than reward with fun failure states to encourage pupils to try again. Collaborating on an exam is cheating, yet jobs require working together. We need XP not grades.
A word of caution, the reason games work can also make games fail.
Marketers expect add points and badges to deliver Farmville sized results.
Won’t happen. Gamification can kill your game
1. Secondary effects as people game the system
2. Give someone a score and they will act in ways to increase it.
3. In the game of Twitter Which Emotion is Stronger? The emotion from reading a particularly interesting Tweet or the social emotion from someone following you? Twitter Points Unbalance the Tweet Sharing Game
In fact, Gamifcation can kill. Take the Bay Bridge for example. The game designers of the Bay Bridge installed a variable toll rate to reward people driving outside of rush hour. And it works, rush hour traffic is down. But don’t be on the Bay Bridge Toll plaza at 7PM on a Friday night where literally dozens of cars are pulled over on the medians and stopped in the active highway! Everyone of them looking at the the big score board waiting for the toll to drop from $6 to $4.
Emotions unbalance these games.
Cant AB test the results either
Conclusion is that you don’t need badges, you don’t need points. To add engagement designers need to understand what makes games engaging. To create Player experiences where mastering the game means you mastered the content. Intrinsic motivation when the interaction is inherently engaging and changes the player and their world.