Gamification Is Broken

“Gamification” is the supposed application of game mechanics and game thinking to supposedly non-game domains. Please don’t take my word for it. Investigate this for yourself using the related links at the end of this post.

This definition encourages unclear thinking about the reality of social interactions.

You cannot make a game out of something that already is one.

The reality is that every social interaction of a kind is a game. There are no non-game domains in social terms.

Any inherently social activity is inherently a game.

For defining the word ‘game’ I am using the McGonigal definition as described on page 22 of her book, REALITY IS BROKEN. That definition from Jane says an activity is a game if it has just 4 essential properties:

  • A clear goal
  • Clear rules
  • A way to get feedback
  • Opt-in participation

This a a profoundly useful definition of the word game. Even if you disagree, let’s use it for now, and pretend that it works….

To say that “gamification” adds game mechanics to existing games such as  social interactions, meetings, and classes is just plain incorrect because the game mechanics are already there.

Gamification is broken. To be more precise, the definition of the term gamification is broken. It encourages unclear thinking about the world by implying that social interactions are games only after ‘gamification’. This is just plain incorrect. Not valid. Wrong.

In all social situations, for example: interactions, meetings, working on a team, working inside a company, participating in a CULTURE….in all of these situations, the game mechanics are present, they are simply weak, not well-designed, or both.

‘Gamification’ as currently defined can’t help, because all of these situations are already games. Usually, they are poorly formed and have incomplete or weak design of the game mechanics.

Are you a Teacher? If you are, realize that all meetings are games, and all classes are meetings, therefore: all classes are games. This means game mechanics are already present in your classroom. If the mechanics are weak and loose and not well-designed, your students disengage and check out. And if the game mechanics in your classroom are well-designed and tight, those same students start to get engaged and they “check in” and they have fun and get into it.

“Gamification” as defined does not ‘make a game’ out of your supposedly non-game classroom by adding game mechanics. That’s because the class IS A game, and the game mechanics are already present and simply need to be tuned up.

You cannot make a game out of something that already is one.

All classes are games. Now, not all games are fun to play. Not all classes are fun to attend. If the game mechanics are weak, you can forget about having any fun at all.

The definition of gamification is broken. In social terms, there are no ‘non-game domains’ because every social interaction is a game.

Related Links:

Gamification Defined

How Games Deliver Happiness and Learning

Culture: It’s a Game