The side effects of gamification

 “Intrinsic motivators create greatness, while extrinsic motivators are nothing more than pellets dropped for rats in a cage,” “creating virtual food pellets for you to eat

 “Uniquely, games are gamification is able to get people to take actions that are not always in their best interest, without the use of force, in a predictable way.”


Gamification – the use of game mechanics and dynamics to make a product or service engaging.

#Case 1: Generalization of social ‘principles’

Gamification tends to generalize the goals and needs of all individuals. i.e. as if we are all at some point and have the same end point, and lacking motivation, and autonomy with which to act. That without gamification, work, consumption, exercise, applying for jobs, going out, socializing, sharing, would be dull, boring, and uneventful. On the contrary, this would not be the case. The balance hangs in helping individuals identify their interests and helping them achieve them. Generalizing people’s goals to one and defining a singular path to the goal may just not be workable.

Gamification seeks to turn the world into one giant chore chart covered with achievement stickers — the kind of thing parents design for their children — though it raises the potentially terrifying question of who the parents are. This, I fear, is the dystopian future of stupid games: amoral corporations hiring teams of behavioral psychologists to laser-target our addiction cycles for profit.

#Case 2: Dissociation – of intention and actions

Gamification may often result to dissociation – the lack of relating one thing to the other. With games, I play because I am enjoying the game, experiencing something fun. With gamification I am playing because am being paid or gaining recognition. Indeed, I am playing a rice game to feed the hungry because I am getting points otherwise I would have no motivation for it. In other words, I do not have the intrinsic motivation to share with the disadvantaged. I do not see value in sharing resources with others if I am not to gain from such an action.

During elections, whether with democracy or not, we, the voters end up being blinded by what we really want our leader to do for us or what we want our society to achieve to fighting for one person over the other. In that case, there is not only a dissociation of our goals, a step further is taken, the goal changes. And irrespective of how many elections we may participate in, achieving the well being of a society becomes impossible. So after a while we learn that politics is for sticking with certain parties or candidates and not platforms for change and betterment of society.

If it makes people feel good when they help others who are not as well off as they are, does that mean that those people need someone bad off to feel good about themselves. Is it possible that that may lead us to let others’ situation worsen so that we may feel good when we only make it a little bit better for them while making sure that we remain better off than them.

#Case 3: The Self well being – money, status and power, rewards and the works over the well being of the society

The world has long been gamified. The only acceptable individual in a society is the most achieving one irrespective of how those achievements are made. In most cases, those achievements have been made at the expense of others. Think production in states lacking regulation on labor laws, environmental laws, fair compensation, child labor, forced labor etc. Think about corruption is societies, the use of armed forces to secure one power, resources and control over others. Yet, the society continues to recognize these people and despise those that are underpaid, overworked, unhealthy – basically the underachievers.

If you have a VIP membership to a club of somewhat, most likely, you don’t queue up like everybody else, you simply cut the line. But if the design to entering that club was right, even the others would not need to queue for longer than necessary but with intentional designs that hold the longer line longer and push the VIP ones then it is simply a design failure and not gamification. If you were looking to say that your club was popular, you could as well hang a screen that says how many people are in. Yes the VIP may feel that they are important or are richer than everybody else but is that even a reflection of the reality? Is your service design for the rich or for all?

#Case 4: The meltdown – recession, debts and hoarding

Bankers are rewarded with money (Big fat bonuses) for their work. i.e. the more profit you can turn in for your bank, the more you stand to benefit in pay and bonuses among other things. Even though you might be intrinsically motivated to doing numbers, eventually due to the gamification of the business, you end up making all sorts of deals just to land yourself, the big pay and fat bonus. In other words, the bank doesn’t really care what deals you strike as long as there is money coming in. Whether or not those deals will ruin other people’s lives or result to an economic downtown is not of concern

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2 thoughts on “The side effects of gamification

  1. Great article on the side effects of gamification, I really liked how you explained the V.I.P situation where people feel that they have more power than others due to money and status. I do know that gamification is used to motivate or engage users to do things that they normally wouldn’t like doing or think is boring. I believe that gamification will be the new big trend because nowadays many places are gamifying themselves, such as businesses and schools. I see many businesses that have added a points-system that gives users points as they achieve something, sometimes by buying their products or joining a membership. As for schools, there are some schools that have used gamification in their classrooms to engage and motivate students to behave. Doing this works best because most children love to win things and have fun; adding gameplay elements solves that. On the internet, anyone can search up Farmville or any other site that rewards you for playing. Lots of these games have attracted lots of players to play. I don’t mind the side effects of gamification; the main cause of it is to motivate people to do things in a more engaged manner. As long as it does its job, the side effects are survivable. Anyways, great article!

  2. Pingback: Usability 2.0 | User experience

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