What does gamification want with you?

One of the questions people ask me is “Why would I use gamification?”. The simple answer is because you don’t want to use a game, but are trying to extract something from students, rather than give them something. Here are some of the ‘tricks’ that brands are pulling on consumers (which includes kids). I would suggest that not doing these things is a good idea, but a better one is to explain to kids what is going on.

To illustrate this point, the main reasons corporations are into gamification is to solicit some very material-focused behaviors from the masses.

  • Fan growth
  • Fan engagement
  • Viral growth
  • Revenue generation
  • Coupon or sales promotion
  • Sign-ups
  • Campaign component (part of broader campaign)

Unlike game designers (and the rules applied to game content), there are no right or wrong ways to go about gamification at all. There are some common traits in all these games.

  • The invitation to play should be clear.
  • It should be easy to get started.
  • Rules and instructions should be kept to a minimum.
  • The game must be visually appealing.
  • Audio should delight rather than annoy.
  • Incentives should be used to get people to play

Notice that gamification often relies on external rewards to get people playing. The polite clap of your friends as you take down a mini-boss isn’t rewarding to gamification because it’s hard for them to measure, and thereby act upon.

Within the game itself you will find the brand-values clothed in numerous symbolic outfits. It’s all about brand recognition, loyalty and calls to action. These are consumer systems in the form of games, so expect a lot (a lot) of brand messages.

  • Fun facts
  • Retail calls-to-action
  • Added-value elements such as coupons, sweepstakes, and giveaways
  • Event tracking

Gamification is about adapt social gaming strategies to brands and overall marketing strategies, whether trying to get employees to hand out great ideas or getting customers to buy more Cheezos. These are then pushed into existing social streams, where they are most likely to be seen and shared.

But then there are examples which don’t suck. For example Proof allows you to set and share 7 day challenges with friends on all sorts of pre-made and user-made topics, which would be great for homework, student interest projects and more. It’s not all dire, but like any media, gamification is dripping with marketing sweat and can stink.