Monday, August 22, 2011

Gamification Backlash

When teachers gave you gold stars for good work, you were played at school. The stars would be put against your name on the wall, which we’d now call a leader board. This encouraged competition: ten stars might have earned you a sticker or a treat, much like boosts or pickups in a computer game.

In classes based on ability rather than age, you might even have earned enough points to “level up” to a higher class. Quests, assignments, rewards, achievement points, leveling up: these are the mechanisms that underpin video gaming. They’re also the ones used in gamification – the use of gaming mechanics to make real-world tasks more compelling.

Gamification is now being applied in the workplace as the gamer generation moves into the mainstream workforce. It will be up to management, often of pre-gamer generations, to figure out how to educate themselves to the gamer culture, and how to speak to it effectively.

Not everyone believes the gamification hype. Professor Richard Bartle, co-creator of MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), the world’s first multiplayer online game, says that gamification is
currently “just a marketing view: people are doing it because they want you to buy their stuff. When people use loyalty cards to earn points, they’re not doing it because they’re loyal, they’re doing it because they’re being bribed.”

A “gamification backlash”, which is being tracked by Jesper Juul. This links to research that shows people are unmotivated by extrinsic rewards (such as points) and do their best work when the rewards are intrinsic (they like what they’re doing).

Michael Wu, principal scientist of analytics at Lithium Technologies, says three factors drive human action: motivation (the player wants to do something); ability (they have the resources to do it); and a trigger, or “call to action”. According to Wu you have to have them all at the same time. Wu’s point is that merely applying gamification techniques do not necessarily work: you have to design the software to drive actions.

The use of computer graphics for simulation and training, for example, with challenges, a goal you have to achieve, multiple paths you can take, timed moves forward – all those things are familiar video game techniques.

In the future, we’re going to see more companies incorporate those techniques to motivate their employees in a way that is more friendly, and has a better interface. We all want to have fun in our daily lives, and games have been part of human life forever.

No comments: