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Professional game developers are quickly developing a high level of disdain toward something called gamification. Gamification is the application of video game reward systems to other applications outside the realm of play and entertainment. Gamification is often used as an advertising ploy, creating a game-like reward system for accomplishing certain goals within a gaming structure. It is sometimes used in educational games and self-improvement applications as well.

Games and Advertising

In many cases, advertisers use gamification to drive customers toward the use of certain products. The term “gamification” implies that something that is not really a game has been made to seem like a game. An example of gamification would be the wildly popular Foursquare application. People earn badges for visiting certain places and checking in with the application. Many companies have developed their own special badges that can be earned when someone visits their store or restaurant.

The Good Side of Gamification

There is, however, another side to gamification that must be considered. The process itself is not damaging. Instead, its the intent of the application that uses these reward systems. While an advertiser driving sales has little merit, game developers should have more tolerance for the technique in educational programs and personal goal-setting platforms. In these areas, gamification can help people achieve personal success more easily. Instead of a tedious task, kicking a bad habit can be fun.

Smart Phone Apps Driving Gamification

Gamification has been around ever since the first general store began giving customers green stamps with every purchase. The most recent evolution of purchase and reward systems includes games that customers can use on their cell phones. It’s easy for someone to continue to play the game because they always have their phones close at hand. Having a cell phone application can also imply that your product or company is in touch with the most cutting edge technology.

Commercial Rewards for Superficial Gameplay

Some game developers see the widespread use of gamification as a threat to the integrity of real video games. The advertisers manipulating reward techniques are playing on people’s response to a quick reward. The games have an almost addictive or compulsive quality as people try to collect all of the badges or tokens that they can. Professional game developers worry that this strips all of the emotional depth from the gameplay experience and may blur the line between game and advertisements. There is also a fear that people will overload on gamification apps so that they burn out on gaming in general.

Applications not Always High Quality

Since these gamification apps are designed by marketers rather than game developers, the end results are not always very reliable. Game developers see this as an insult to the industry and often become frustrated by the cheaply slapped together simplified games that are riddled with glitches. As more and more people experience the poor quality of a bad gamification design, they may begin to equate glitches and poor play with other types of computer games as well. Some game developers feel that their craft is compromised by these poor quality applications that are being presented as games.

How Game Developers Can Control Gamification Misuse

The best way for developers to control the process is to become involved. Instead of turning their backs on gamification projects, they should embrace the technique so they can have a voice in how the technology evolves. When high-quality developers work on these applications, everyones wins: the consumer, the student and the personal growth enthusiast.


Jessica Bosari blogs for Technology-Colleges.info. The site provides useful advice and information for those thinking about information security careers and other computer science jobs. Students get answers to questions like, “What are the best Technology Colleges for me?” and “What can I expect for a database administration salary?”



  • lathomas64

    I agree that gamification has lots of positive potential as well as negative. Even before I had heard of gamification I wanted to fine a task-list application where I could set up my tasks like quests from an RPG. The buzz about gamification strengthens my opinion that this would be a good idea. As far as deluding the medium, I think the effect will be just the opposite. As Gamification becomes rampant it will force game developers to up the ante so to speak and steup up the quality of what they produce to avoid being lost in a sea of gamelets. This can't be anything but a good thing. Perhaps as the state of the art of gaming advances, we can have a feedback loop and raise up the gamification as well. I'd also like to note how ironic it was that before I could read the post I was presented with big door's gamification. The access to your information when not using the application concerned me though, is that just for a leaderboard type thing?

  • @lathomas64 thanks for the comment. In regards to our integrated gamification with the BigDoor checkin – that is used to bring about more social interaction and sharing amongst our readers. Not only is there a leaderboard showing the most checkins, comments, shares, etc. but also the ability to access special deals (referenced by the "BigDeal" box below) – those are ecommerce opportunities specifically for our site readership. We try to consciously strike a good balance between great content, monetization and social interaction on the site. Any feedback you'd like to share is always appreciated.