3 myths about gamification

We’re starting the blog in a powerful note by busting a few myths! If you’re following me on Facebook, you’ve no doubt noticed by now that I’m all but in love with gamification. My mistresses are serious games, game-based learning and gameful experience. Back to gamification.

What is gamification? If you were curious enough to run a Google search, you most likely felt invaded by lots of different opinions, definitions, applications and more. Wondering why?

Very simple. Gamification is too young to have matured yet but it’s also highly dynamic, in constant change, therefore people who try gamification kind of create their own style. But let’s start with the beginning. In this article you’ll learn about 3 popular gamification myths and why they are myths.

As I previously stated, gamification is young. But it’s also a vast domain. People are applying it worldwide but we still haven’t agreed upon an actual set of rules, guidelines and principles.

Gamification is so new that Word still sees it as a typo.

The most widely accepted definition at this time is that gamification is the process in which we use game mechanics and elements in order to engage our audience. And where can we apply this process? Everywhere! At the office, at school, even at home. Gamification has evolved so much that literally anyone can use it: a project manager to motivate his team, a teacher who wants to actively engage his students or a mother who wants to teach her child about the benefits of cleaning one’s room.

However, due to this rapid and diverse evolution of gamification, several myths have surfaced.

1: Gamification and games are the same thing.

By far the most popular myth and yet nothing could be more false. Gamification takes its inspiration from games and applies game mechanics, principles and elements in other situations. If you find yourself in a gamified system, you’ll notice that you’re not playing a game. You’re still working/teaching and your audience is still working/learning. It’s just that they’re more happy about it.

Let’s take an example: You’re organizing an event and you’re looking for a location with specific characteristics. For the sake of this example we’ll say you need a location for 150 people, with AC, catering and, obviously, in budget. Research may be one of the dullest activities ever (for most people), therefore the team member to whom you’re thinking of delegating this task to will be more than “thrilled”.

How does gamification help: rather than delegating this task to a single individual, you pitch it as a challenge for the entire team. The one who offers the best solution wins. What does he win? A small reward which can really be anything: a “Best Researcher” badge or medal, a funny diploma, or maybe something useful like the liberty to say pass at a certain task for the remainder of the project. The better the reward, the more determined they will be.

2: Gamification is too competitive

Many people disregard gamification out of fear of too much competition. They fear that if the individuals on the team get too competitive, it may have negative effects on the long run.

It is true that if you don’t know what you’re doing you might generate too much competition, however competition itself is just a small part of gamification. The pillars of gamification are competition and collaboration. And just as you create competitive challenges, you can create collaborative challenges as well. A good gamification model juggles between the two. A great gamification model gradually reduces the competitive side to a competition with yourself. A better you today, compared to yesterday.

Using our previous example, a project is composed of several work packages which, in turn, are composed of several activities. Researching for a location is just an activity in a far greater picture. In the early stage, you can present the project as a gamified experience, transforming every activity into a challenge. Some can be group challenges and some individual ones. For every challenge completed, every person or the entire team receives a certain number of points. At the end of the project they receive a collective reward based on the total amount of points. During the project they can receive other small rewards for both collaborative and competitive challenges. Starting with a game night or a day at the spa, the prizes can be anything. The point is, they collaborated. And the reward itself is also a feedback for the team which translates in “keep it up, you’re doing a great job”. So you get 2 for the price of 1: engaged employees and a boost in their self-confidence and team morale.

3: Gamification solves any problem.

No. Just no. Although gamification has a wide spread, it doesn’t solve any problem and frankly, it’s not for everyone. For some it can be a beneficial model which helps. For others, it may very well be a waste of time. What’s important to remember is to always make the difference between what is beneficial and what is not. If you have a good thing going for you, don’t ruin it just because gamification is the hot new thing right now. Stop and think if you really need it. And then apply it or move on.

There’s also the matter of people who just don’t get it so automatically label it a waste of time. Make sure you pitch this approach in a manner through which they understand what you’re selling. If they still feel like they can’t adapt, drop it. If not, go for it.

So this is it. 3 myths, all busted. There are more myths out there, but I believe these are the critical ones. What do you think? Is gamification useful? What are some of the myths that you’ve encountered?

Let me know what you think, in the comments! 🙂