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Let’s stop over-hyping gamification. A plea for nudge and choice architecture thinking.

Sorry, I don’t believe in gamification per se. Gamification is just one of many nudge tactics. Don’t believe the hype.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply


It all started with a tweet I wrote yesterday, “Sorry, I don’t believe in gamification per se. Gamification is just one of many nudge tactics. Don’t believe the hype”. I didn’t expect so many people reacting, let alone writing blogposts to counter my statement (thanks @gammet and @wolfr_).

Let’s first start with the concept of gamification. To have some general understanding of the concept of gamification, I took the crowdsourced definition from Wikipedia:

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as “funware”), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.

There, Wikipedia goes on to mention examples like achievement “badges”, achievement levels, “leader boards”, a progress bar to indicate how close people are to completing a task (completing a social networking profile or earning a frequent shopper loyalty award), virtual currency, systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and otherwise exchanging points, challenges between users and embedding small casual games within other activities.

My problem with gamification

I think we can all agree that people tend to like games.
That adding game play mechanics is a very interesting way to encourage people to act or think in a specific way.
I think we can even agree on the fact that the huge exposure of the concept of gamification helps to really change the way organizations, applications, brands and governments interact with people. That it shows/showed them small changes can make a huge difference when they add some playfullness.

Furthermore, I think we can agree on the fact that there are too many experts talking about gamification and too little people acting. And that there is a tendency to copy/paste the scarce best practices we have without thinking. Take the over-badge-ification of things. After much of Foursquare’s success has been (falsely?) attributed to the introduction of their Foursquare badges, many startups started to implement similar badge systems.
In many cases, gamification doesn’t work or is just badly implemented. So let’s have a sense of reality here.

I totally understand that is inherit to the phase gamification is in now. We really have to learn how and when to implement these mechanisms.

And that is exactly my point:  gamification is only ONE OF MANY mechanics to encourage and nudge behavior.

A plea for nudge and choice architecture thinking

The over-exposure of gamification overlooks the fact that gamification is really one mechanic in a broader range of mechanics to encourage/change people’s behavior. Gamification could be added to the list of …

So let’s stop hyping gamification. Let’s start doing. Let’s start adopting a broad range of nudge/choice architecture mechanics to make things more converting, easier and more fun.