The Revolution Will be Gamified

Rollin Bishop on the pitfalls of the games-as-change-agent concept in post titled “Achievement Unlocked: ‘Gamification’ is Subversive”

…giving out badges or achievements to people who eat healthy or perform their daily hygiene isn’t exactly an evil to end all evils. But there’s also no real ability to regulate who truly is and is not doing these things versus someone who merely says they are. In addition, “gamification” may provide the desired results, but it has no way of dealing with the underlying issues at fault here. We shouldn’t be hailing our ability to collectively trick the population of the world into doing good deeds for worthless digital trinkets.

(Emphasis mine)

Of course, he’s right.

The fact that 75% of Miron Construction employees have chosen to play our gamification pilot, though truly awesome, is not what we use to determine the success of our program. Nor are the accolades and prizes earned by players. Whether players actually reduce emissions over time is what we are focused on. It’s certainly the only thing that matters for the planet and society at large.

The danger Bishop’s comments spotlight is that organizations might emphasize the game instead of mission. There’s a balance involved – a game needs to be fun to be engaging but the game needs to result in real impact for that engagement to be worth it.

And therein lays the friction between gamifiers like us and the segment of game designers and producers who recoil at the mere mention of what Badgeville investor, Tim Chang, calls “the dreaded G word.” A game is a means to an end for Cool Choices. We care about the artistry of the medium but artistry does not drive our use of games in our sustainability programs. Ultimately, we care about outcomes – avoided emissions and efficiency. Game designers have another, primary focus – is the game fun?

We’re going to prove that you can accomplish real impact through really fun games. That’s not all that subversive.

But it might be revolutionary.

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