When rules go wrong

Mindlessly adding points and badges to any process most often distracts the user from the actual purpose or function of the process. Normally this means that the person doing it is no longer achieving the actual goal but just gaming the system. Basically breaking the product or service.

But sometimes, the result is catastrophic.

I’ve earlier published examples from games where friends become aware that trolling their friends is the best way to rack up a score and therefore literally destroying the game. But in the real world, this type of bad gamification (pointification) can have more serious consequences.

Such as when police officers harass people to improve their statistics. It helps no one. But the statistics look great, both for the officer in question and his/her commanding officer and their organisation.

How to make rules that actually work

I wrote an article on how to create rules that really work over on my personal blog. The reason most rules don’t work, or that many people don’t follow rules is that rules in themselves aren’t designed to actually work. Rules are often superimposed on reality to little or no effect because their creators aren’t aware of how rules work.

My article delves deep into what those problems are, and how to avoid them. But for the game design and gamification interested this short list on how to create better rules might be more suitable:

  • Communicate the outcome of your rule, not the limitations (the rule itself).
  • Think up situations that might warp the rules, and take it to extremes.
  • Think about how the rule will affect things when it’s purpose is no longer relevant.
  • Remember that rules are used by at least to types of people: individuals, and groups.
  • Never punish rule breaking. If you must punish, punish for outcomes.
  • Try to be vague. Trust people to interpret rules intelligently.

Gartner believes 80% of gamification will fail

Gartner recently published a press release for Gamification predictions in 2014. The short, short, version is that Gartner predicts that 80% (!) of all gamification projects will fail to reach their business objectives. And here comes the important part; the projects will fail due to bad design.

I’ve been writing about this for some time now. But in recent months I’ve slowed down because business is not keeping up. Most agencies out there claiming to do gamification have no competency in game design and don’t understand why their projects have or will fail miserably.

Some gamification experts says this is proof that we need to change the word. Sebastian Deterding is famously championing the alternative playful design. I don’t think we need to change the world. I think we need to make sure everyone knows who is a snake oil salesman. Implementing game design in non game contexts will always attract fakers trying to sell crap. Out only defence is telling it like it is. Just like religious leaders are not taken seriously in astrophysics. WE should not take the likes of Gabe Zichermann seriously. He’s just trying to print money by jumping on a trendy word.

Getting past gamification and getting to the fun

Sebastian Deterding has another great presentation on gamification up. This time he argues, effectively, that we should stop talking about gamification since it promotes the wrong ideas about how to design for fun.

While I agree with his arguments I have to raise the point that changing a term that has already been popularised very seldom works. But even so, looking back in a few years time we’ll probably all laugh and scoff at “gamification” at the same time as we’ll all be doing “playful design”…

Understanding fun – what is a game?

Most people who approach Gamification fall for the hype and start believing games are the same as gamification. This has a kernel of truth, but most people don’t think about what a game is. People falling for the hype start believing video games have all the answers. This is simply not true.

This morning I found this amazing video showing some of the games humans play, most of the time we don’t even think about them as games:

It’s a brilliant video and it gives you a great start for thinking about what kind of gaming is really necessary to reach all the benefits of gamification. Enjoy!

Cheap add-on gamification

Zicherman gives his tips for cheap gamification of basically anything. A few things wrong with this:

  • There are no general solutions for gamification. It’s like saying this color will generally make anything prettier.
  • Don’t read his blog. It’s crap. Read the Gamification research network.
  • Don’t use BigDoor or similar products. Gamification is not an add-on. They won’t work and you’ll be better off trying to figure it out yourself without spending hard earned cash.

The definitive word on Gamification

Sebastian Deterding recently posted a presentation that, really, says it all. Enjoy.

IBM implements “gamification” to improve workers health

IBM is implementing monetary rewards for workers choosing healthier foods. While on the surface this sounds like an excellent idea, taking into account that money and extrinsic rewards usually detract from the intended goal this might not be the best idea.

The problem here is the usual fundamental misunderstanding of what makes games fun: we all believe that we know how they work because we play them and see that people are hunting for points and rewards. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Just like a villain is not the reason a great detective movie works, rewards are not the reason why games are fun but just a way to deliver part of the experience.

Update: Apparently the link didn’t work, so here is the original story IBM implements “Gamification”

Mathematicians “prove” that games are hard

The reason for this is that game mechanics are analogue, meaning gradual, making them very hard to master or pre calculate. The point for this is to make mastery hard to achieve and using levels make it interesting enough to entice out minds.

On the Verge: Mathematicians prove that games are hard