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08/10/2012

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There is something about the whole "gamification" thing that keeps inserting itself into my thoughts on the topic. Isn't this really all about simulations moving from pen and paper to screen and interface?

Yes, it has the potential to deliver faster feedback (as do many things that go from analogue to digital). But at its core, it strikes me that it's all about the "what if" and the "if...then" mazes we ask people to navigate.

If you intend to use this shiny new tool you'd better be crystal clear on the "why" and it better be compelling to your "gamers".

Todd:

Good summary and thoughts, and I couldn't agree more. The criteria for adopting any shiny new tool should be clarity on the "why" and fit to your business and people.

Thanks for weighing in!

With all due respect, I rather disagree with the rationalizations presented for gamification. Like so many other presentations these days, the logic is faulty. The article employs false and exaggerated comparisons. It depends heavily on “straw man” arguments, in which the very best is compared to the very worse in order to dramatize the supposed advantage of a concept that is implied to be “innovative” while really remaining very traditional. Read through the justifications and you will see that every evil of “the real world” to be corrected is simply the result of bad behavioral process, while each “superior outcome” attributed to the game is simply the normal product of good behavioral practice. All the methods of “the real world” are reduced to the bad practices alone and every effective technique is reserved to the game format. It’s merely by a basic substitution of good process for bad process.

The “good game” must meet all the same requirements of a “good reward system.” Games can be just as bad as this awful “real world” that was described. And the real world can operate as well as the idealized game. Heck, the entire “gamification” model is only a superficial shell that applies the lessons of every good performance/incentive system, in disguise. If you have a well developed understanding of reward tradecraft, you won’t need gamification to teach you. On the other hand, this back-door model of conventional effective reward techniques and consequence implications might educate some people who do not yet understand those things.

It is a lot like the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” show. If you ARE, you don’t need the show. If you are NOT, you need to realize your shortcomings so you can remedy them. Considering what it takes to get the attention of people today, gamification may become necessary to trick folks into learning as a form of entertainment. Sad to say, it may be required if management suffers from the same myopia as the employees: i.e., they all see knowledge as hard work rather than fun and feel that education must be disguised as frolic before it becomes attractive. Too bad, if that is true.

As you observe, smart reward plan design renders gamification redundant and unnecessary. But we live in a world where a shiny flashy tech solution is usually preferred over plain substance.

Jim:

Interesting observations, as always. Thanks for sharing them!

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