With the first month of 2013 nearly over, it’s time to set our sights on accomplishing all the goals we set for the BigDoor platform and the gamification industry in 2013. The industry has changed drastically from when I first became aware of it; in the early days, everyone was talking about games. At the root of the ugly, often disliked word “gamification” was the idea that platforms like BigDoor could draw inspiration from game designers, successful games and game mechanics to create something that engaged internet users, employees and people around the world. While that is still true, we do still talk about game mechanics (perhaps incorrectly according to Andrzej Marczewski) I think the gamification industry does itself a disservice by misusing terms and classifying “gamification” examples to include things that really just belong in the “games” bin.
I’m guilty of it too. I’m sure if someone dug through my posts about gamification long enough they could find plenty of times I have praised a well-designed mini-game and tagged it with gamification. This doesn’t help our industry. Gamification has picked up steam in everything from consumer facing gamified loyalty programs, to gamified training, and employee motivation. It is less and less about creating a game and more and more about using what we understand about psychology (often from game designers) to motivate people in various tasks, goals and directions. Gamification has plenty of great examples to demonstrate its powerful abilities, but conflating games and gamification negatively impacts the industry as a whole.
That isn’t to say that lines between gamification and games are black and white. They clearly aren’t and many examples will engage in the grey area between the two. But recently I have seen quite a few gamification industry professionals complimenting or discussing mobile games, mini games and other blatant “game” examples, as representative of the industry. This confuses people who don’t fully understand gamification and detracts from successful gamification examples that are a much better representation of the industry and the direction that it is heading.
When the NRA released “NRA: Practice Range” the #gamification stream on Twitter saw tweets flying by about what a poor example of gamification the game was and gamification industry experts were writing about the release. Undoubtedly, this game is a horrible example of gamification, but not because of its political or controversial implications, it’s a horrible example, because it isn’t gamification. It’s a game. Sure, it has some facts about gun safety tossed in, but it is a mistake to classify every game that has any educational value as “gamification”.
As an emerging industry still defining itself we are bound to make some missteps. Games with clear social purposes sometimes seem to fall somewhere in-between. But gamification industry professionals, experts and fans, let’s make an effort in 2013 to try to separate games, games with social purposes and gamification into separate categories to make things a bit easier.