The two sides of gamification or May the force be with you



A dishwasher containing clean dishes

A dishwasher containing clean dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the moment, I am developping a little prototype for my gamma-study. The idea is implementing a “clean of the dishwasher“-game which provides three simple use cases to motivate me and my working mates to clean of the dishwasher:

  1. “I (x) cleaned of the dishwasher and were seen by mate y“.
  2. “I were in the kitchen and saw x cleaning of the dishwasher”.
  3. “I need to know my working mates to tell who were in the kitchen. Show me five images and let me guess who it is”.

Quite simple, but with the third use case I provide some intrinsic motivation (well at least I suppose you’d like to know names and faces you are working with) besides the motivation of getting points for guessing names and matches of first and second use case.

But when I told my boss what I wanted to do, he already interrupted at the mention of gamification. In his opinion, gamification is not compatible with our company’s philosophy because gamification “targets the manipulation of the behaviour of people” and our philosophy is very based on individual freedom and self-responsability.

This led me to tell you about…

The two sides of gamification

I think of gamification as the jedi do of the force:

There is a light side and a dark side.

Let’s start with the temptations of the dark side:

Gamification Ethics (by Kes Sampanthar)

Gamification Ethics (by Kes Sampanthar)

  • You would never do a task like this if you were not paid for.
  • Let the players feel a pressure to play or get them addicted of the game.
  • The problem you try to solve by using gamification is only a symptom of an organisational or social disease that you will never heal.
  • You just add points and badges and that’s the magic that makes everybody happy (ever heard of the Cargo Cult?)
  • Manipulation of the ethical conscience of the players.
  • Gamification for gamification and as a religion to make everyone believe in your strategy.
  • If you can think of more darkness, share your ideas by commenting here please. Thx!

Now the light side:

A powerful light shines in the dark.

A powerful light shines in the dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • You can support the players by immediate feedback about their recent work instead of demotivating them with a “What the hell did you do?!” after two weeks of hard work.
  • You can support the players by creating a transparent skill board so that they can see, where their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • You can support the players building a team and creating a good team atmosphere by creating a transparent team-wide progress board to show them what they achieve together.
  • You can let your players elect a “senat of players” by which they can decide about changes made to the rules and game design.
  • There are transparent and precise rules and a code of conduct for both players and quest/game-designer so that you work together more transparent and objective.
  • Your players will always know what they already achieved and will be more self-confident.
  • Players can motivate themselves and support themselves reaching their aims.

Conclusion and perspective

Gamma - The light side of Gamification

Gamma – The light side of Gamification

In my opinion, the dark side is tempting because it is easier to implement and you don’t need to worry about the players, you can simply see them as a black box giving you money or work time.

But as always easy and fast success, especially if it is reached by manipulation, is not the long-term winner. So if you are really serious about gamification, please think about what players get back for investing their time in using your gamified application and stay on the light side. Never said it were easy, but your players will feel at ease and there will be a healthy, continuous progess and growth.

With gamma, I will try to implement the light side for employees, so that your boss can design a quest and by reaching a certain level, you can design quests for your colleagues. You will get skill points and experience points depending on the quests you completed and can apply for quests.

Comments and questions are appreciated very much!

Hope I can open my boss’ eyes for the light side…

And never forget: May the force be with you!


13 thoughts on “The two sides of gamification or May the force be with you

  1. I was just reading over this and I like how you look at both sides. I would think that the lighter side would be easier to fall into, as a designer, but that is just my opinion. I feel like I must learn more about this concept and how to eventually implement it without, say, having my phone on me 24/7 so I don’t become solely dependent on this game idea/concept. I think the dish washing idea is pretty grand though, I would like that. I am the worst at doing dishes. I will do just about every chore before deciding that I should do something about the monstrous stack of dishes that are piled in the kitchen. It is really bad lol

  2. Pingback: Double Nominee For The Liebster Award – Thank you Irene and Rienne | On the light side of gamification

  3. I like the way you describe the dark side – especially the – not acting to remove an organizational problem, etc.

    I still remain convinced that gamification is able to lure people into actions that they may otherwise not engage in, such as collecting sale coupons, or visiting a bar everyday so they may become a ‘mayor’ there. And I agree with you that we really ought to think about the autonomy and self determination of humans not just users, for profits, we of course turn to extrinsic motivations but if we do not delude ourselves about modern challenges including energy, food, water, etc then our cyclic cycles of consumption and profits are overly misguided.

    People may play games for energy, food and water but as long as they are doing this for money, elitism, etc, then they may have no intrinsic motivation as such and their interest leave alone engagement in such games may drop as soon as the money aspect is removed.

    We also need to develop methods for enhancing empathy – simply put, if people are able to see each other as counterparts rather than opponents, then they may be able to work together, and share resources rather than annihilate each other and misuse available resources to benefit a few.

    Bottom line is, in the current economic systems, it makes sense to gamify – to maximize profits. Profit is the primary goal, not the well being of society.

    • Thank you very much, kiariid, for this essay-like comment. Not only that you dare to comment, you also give me great inspiration for a new blog post! Thx!!! I think we have to rethink our short-term and long-term aims. If we go for the well-being of society as a short-term aim, can’t we reach profit as a long term aim because this well-being society is performing well? I agree that we have to state clear who caused all this well-being of course πŸ˜‰
      If we go for profit as a short-term target, don’t we run in danger to exhaust society and leave blood on our path?
      I go for the three dimensions of sustainability:
      – social
      – ecological
      – economical
      It’s another one of my company’s philosophy like
      Guess I will write a post about sustainability and gamification soon. Maybe we can discuss it a bit here beforehand πŸ™‚
      May the force be with you,

  4. I am surprised that people always start with a manipulation debate. Our whole life is about influencing, or if you want to coin it in a negative way, it is about manipulating. If your mom tells you to clean up the room, it is not just a friendly remark, it is a threat, even when the consequences are not clearly stated. If you go to school, you learn a certain way of thinking and therefore you can consider this manipulation. Your boss at work makes you do thinks you never would do otherwise. All laws want to enforce a certain behavior. Music wants to put you into a certain mood, – This list can almost be extended further, even extending it to every word we exchange with others- all interaction we have with our environment that is consciously created, is a form of manipulation. Even if somebody tells you that “games are manipulative” is an attempt to manipulate your opinion.
    Discussion will usually not help do convince anybody. It is just a matter of looking at things and it is just some personal feeling or fear that will people evaluate f.e. a book as non manipulative, a game as manipulative…

    Your approach is great. I just know it from my company that the coffee machine problem and the dishwasher problem are unsolved problems in today’s office environments.

    • Wow, great comment, thx a lot! I think we need to differenciate between 1) giving arguments plus the chance to make a decision AND 2) “giving” a decision. 2) is manipulative without doubt. 1) is what we call in my company the “way of making a commonly accepted decision”. The idea is that everybody tells why he or she wants to do something and given all this motivation, you can make the right choice. Sometimes it takes a bit longer but well, at least most times results are quite profoundly thought-over.

      I guess I will write a second post about this topic this weekend, also providing my boss’ decision and his arguments. I think it is essential for the success of gamification to be clear about what Katherine Heisler calls the millenium people ( an individual being with needs of freedom and feedback but with the ability and readiness to work hard and effective.

      Do you think your company would use my dishwasher game? If so, I finished implementing it and gave it with some instructions about how to start to you under one single condition: you (and maybe your colleagues) post regularly what’s happening and I can do some database queries about activity, points development, etc.
      Would be great!

      May the force be with you,

      • I don’t want to start a big discussion, therefore I just want to comment on the “way of making a commonly accepted decision”. I would really be interested to learn more about the concept and a detailed definition of the concept. People in companies have different skills, motivations, intentions, ideas, education, intelligence and knowledge detail of certain tasks, awareness, priorities. So what is a commonly accepted decision? The majority? The experts? The bosses? And do all know the definition and agree on that definition?
        I would really love to read about that, but I guess it is out of scope of your blog.

        About the dishwasher game: Why don’t you provide a website for all interested companies to start their own dishwasher game? I think it will give you a lot of insights, if your gamification concept is interesting enough to keep people engaged of a longer period of time.

        Use the Force, Chris

        • Don’t worry, my blog exists for big discussions as I don’t claim to know everything and I still want to learn something. I think this decision thing (I’m so tired of writing making a commonly accepted decision πŸ˜‰ ) could also be implemented in my gamma project. So I wrote a page and hope you enjoy reading it ( I’m sure you will have some thoughts while reading it so please speak your mind and comment on the new page so that I can improve it.

          For the dishwasher game I guess I will do so but I think I need to rethink my concept a bit using all this new input I got since I talked to my boss πŸ˜‰ but I let you know when you can test it πŸ™‚

          Use the force too, Joe

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