In Defense of Gamification

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In Defense of Gamification

Shamus stands up for the concept of gamification.

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(Particularly if the badge features a letter. I collect letters. It's my goal to someday be able to arrange my badges to spell something rude.)

Bless your soul, good fellow.

I went badge hunting for the GlaDOS one I use in my "eyeball row". The other three fell out for free. Only badge I'm inordinately proud of (but only occasionally show off) is my Russ-Pitts-as-Lady-Gaga one. Because nothing sets off a pair of spark boobs like a smokin' goatee. (Hmmm. Today is a day to show it off!)

Big points for awesome badgeage goes to @Nasrin, though, even if no one usually sees it.

I'm cool with what the Escapist has done. Badges, while relatively meaningless, have encouraged me to explore the site and found me a lot of things that interest me (and a few that don't).

Does your book still classify as new, Shamus?

And yeah, I basically agree -- it's not our savior the way Extra Credits seems to perceive it, but it's pretty much harmless. I love nabbing badges off the Escapist, and I really love being able to present my four favorite badges in my side profile thingie. I love customization.

I don't put any effort into acquiring Escapist badges (insert Treasure of the Sierra Madre quote). But I do arrange my top four with a certain amount of meaning. Including something I very much like promoting in some small way, the feature that first drew me to the site, and the top two are from features that I feel the Escapist should have never let get away. (Yeah, take that! I'm a rebel.)

The point is, I don't think we really need to worry about anyone being exploited. A lot of the criticism of gamification comes in the form of people worrying about the poor, clueless sheeple of the internet and how they're being used. The argument goes like, "These game mechanics are simple, obvious, and I can't imagine anyone enjoys them. Therefore the people participating are hapless rubes in need of rescue!"

While I agree with much of the criticism of gamification, my main problem with the criticism is that it credits us with very little intelligence. I love the badges on the escapist, but I wouldn't spend hours doing something I didn't want to do in order to get a badge, in the same way that I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of money on a car just because I saw the advert for it. Of course, I don't consider myself 'above' being manipulated by marketing tricks, and I'm sure I've been influenced by them as much as the next person; but I stick around on the escapist because I like the features. Any badges, forum titles, customisation etc. is a cheeky bonus that I can choose to enjoy/not enjoy in a way which I don't feel is as invasive as many other forms of marketing.

1) Master Chief, easy.

2) Extra Credits brought on the surge of Gamification in everything ages ago XD

3) My badges, look upon them and despair.

plus this stuff's entirely optional, so it's not as if anybody's being forced at gunpoint to care

Fair enough I guess but the most troubling critique from the errant signal video isn't that it could waste a little of your time here or there (or money when more traditional marketers get a hold of it) but rather that it might make things less enjoyable. It turns something voluntary into a tool to obtain something else. By doing something for a specific goal instead of on its own terms the inherent enjoyability of the action gets diminished since you mostly care about getting the reward, is the argument.

Now I don't know if that's true, as much as I like Chris I'm inherently sceptical of psychology especially when coming from someone who isn't a psychologist (poorly understood soft science is not very convincing). But if it's true then gameification isn't just something that gets you to waste a bit of time but something that makes our lives less fun or interesting.

I don't think the really rather minor way the escapist uses it is going to doom mankind or anything but maybe we should research this before we structure our schools around it is what I'm saying.

@ShamusYoung
While we're on the subject of "gamification", do you think perhaps we might amend this ongoing linguistic transgression, and supplant the word "mechanism" for "mechanic". :|

So, do you want to know about the free world wide course being taught (sometime) in gamification then?

https://www.coursera.org/course/gamification

You're no longer linking to Twenty Sided Tale or Spoiler Warning in your about the author thing? :( That's how I found it all.

On topic, badges have convinced me to give a few series a chance I wouldn't have otherwise. When I'm time wasting and ambivalent the smallest inventive either way would tip the barrel and some of those series I liked and continued watching and others I didn't. I'm grateful for them introducing me to the series' I did.

On the other hand I think we;re underestimating the effect these psychological techniques can have. The whole point of them isn't they aren't logically understandable (ie the badges aren't worth it but do it anyway) but effect our behaviour. It's like advertising, no-one believes adverts have an affect on them, and they're too clever to fall for marketing games, yet it's so effective, people have paid billion upon billion to do it and seen profit. Unless there's one guy in the corner writing Facebook-stock-worth cheques, this stuff has more effect on us than we imagine, and the same probably goes for skinner boxes

I'll say it now, I hate achievements in games. Hate them. They bug the hell out of me. I don't want to see that shit. I always want the option to turn off achievement notifications. Give me that option and your game goes way up in my estimation developers. I'm a huge sucker for skinner box mechanics but only if they mean something like incremental upgrades. (I have no idea why I dislike Diablo/Borderlands so much when I am such a skinner whore)

As for the Escapist badges, I never do anything to "get" a badge. Be proud that your content is strong enough to attract an audience of people who don't care about these things.

Oh and Cate Archer, none sexier.

Shamus Young:
In Defense of Gamification

Shamus stands up for the concept of gamification.

Read Full Article

Particularly glad to finally hear some frank discussion about gamification-as-manipulation. Working in public education, it's been all the rage for years at the elementary school level (token economies, reward tiers, etc.) and it's seeing an upswing thanks to new verbage (gamification).

And not only does it not get the job done, it's counterproductive to engaging students in learning. It distracts them from learning, and creates the expectation that the Big Rich Someone will always be there to make everything fun for them. Neither of these is a good thing.

Shamus Young:

Shamus stands up for the concept of gamification.

I noticed your badge order spells; EXET, not sure what you are aiming for there.

I don't mind the Gamification of websites, to a certain degree. It makes them more mentally engaging.

The website is manipulating me? Do it more, a little to the left... higher... okay, right there.

Badges? We don't need no stinking Badges!

*shrugs

1up does gamification really well. You get progress points just for reading articles.

Bah! I knew you were nothing but an exet!

Srsly though, I think too many people are worrying about the haunting spectre of gamification before it even has had a chance to show what it's made of. A few months ago I read an article containing some mild complaints about gamification, and the example they gave was exact the same thing that we would ten years ago be calling a loyalty program.

That said, I don't care about the Escapist badges. The ones that you get for not being a bother to the mods are cool, and an example of gamification done right (rewarding behaviour that benefits the community). The rest? eh. (Also, I miss getting six cool feature articles a week, even if they all dropped on Tuesday. Can I get a badge for that?)

It's the other way around. I think of my level on Kongregate or Newgrounds as a way to measure progress, but I do not interact with them for those thingamajigs. It's more of a way to measure yourself and other people than as a goal you want to reach. It's sort of like the feel of having over 1k posts on Minecraft Forums. I brag about it, and I'm proud of it, but I didn't spam posts to get to it. I only posted because I wanted to.

Shamus Young:
while Franklin is a personal friend of mine I didn't write this because I wanted to promote his work.

I wouldn't have a problem if you did.

I discovered errant signal after you mentioned it on twenty sided, and I'm glad that you did. It's a great series and I really would like to see Chris get more exposure for it.

Yeah, I can't say I've ever felt exploited by The Escapist... but wait!

Just today, I saw a user with his badges arranged so that they spelled out "1984"! It must be a sign!

Also, as there is always a relevant XKCD comic:
image

But seriously, I agree with what you're saying, Shamus.

shrekfan246:
Yeah, I can't say I've ever felt exploited by The Escapist...

That's what annoyed me about Chris's video. I genuinely like the badge system, it has made me look at content I otherwise would not have, and it's a nice addition to the content I enjoy regardless.

I agree with Shamus. I certainly don't think that gamification is some magical tool to ship us to the promise lands, but I don't think it's necessarily anything very harmful. To me it's just a fun little, ooh I got a shiny trinket. Meaningless and minute yes, but it doesn't hurt me and I had a bit of fun getting it.

I love Chris' stuff but I think he was a bit too heavy handed with his approach.

Knight Templar:

shrekfan246:
Yeah, I can't say I've ever felt exploited by The Escapist...

That's what annoyed me about Chris's video. I genuinely like the badge system, it has made me look at content I otherwise would not have, and it's a nice addition to the content I enjoy regardless.

Well, I may be a bit biased because this is one of my favorite websites to constantly refresh on when I have nothing better to do, but I agree. The badge system is a fun way of encouraging users to explore parts of the website they might not normally visit, or even to go back and watch the plethora of old content that is still hosted here (LoadingReadyRun, Zero Punctuation, and Unskippable all have pretty large backlogs now, and they're all still worth watching).

You know Shamus, your defense of the Escapist sounded really convincing. Then I remember this is the same Escapist which tried to bleed their users of $20,000 so Yahtzee could go to PAX. Then I also remember this is the same Escapist that fans the fanboy flames every March in order to get a few extra clicks. I could go about things like the Pub Club (a.k.a. The "Pay Us or We'll Annoy The Shit Out of You" business model).

EDIT: Watch me get suspended or banned for daring to criticize the almighty Escapist. Wouldn't be the first time.

Thesis is a bit much. Premise is probably closer although spew would be my personal choice regarding that particular youtuber.

I agree Shamus. The Escapist is a very fun "game".

Also, is the word you're trying to make, POOP?

I ask because shit & F@#k are starting to bore me, the other "good" ones are too long, and the C word is just ugly.
But poop makes me giggle a little. Just a little. :)

I like how i can further set myself apart using badges.

My issue is when "dummy content" becomes so prominant it simply transitions into noise. And we all know the internet has enough noise as it is. To me, "gamification" risks adding to that noise. And when noise outweighs signal... you end up something like modern news sites (minus the hypothesized "reader elite" sites of the future).

Personally though, I'm not concerned. The thing is, this transition into noise will be its own undoing. I'd not want to be a "gamification package" developer or marketer right now. Simply put, for every such package they sell, the value of the existing ones decreases as users get densistised and learn to filter the systems out as another form of internet noise. Its a self-defeating production line with a limited lifespan.

I think if anything, the Escapist handles such a system fairly well for three reasons:
1. It is tailored to the site. It is not simply a generic system adapted and shoehorned in.
2. It is appropriate. This is a gaming website. The signup quest on Dropbox on the flip side had me grinding my teeth. Game is not for data storage. If, say, my bank ever pulls this stunt for its online banking site, I'll look into switching to their rival immediately as that is a realm in which noise is completely inappropriate and unacceptable.
3. It more recently has offered ambiguous badges as a means to foster creativity. Classic example is your collection of letters, with the goal being to spell out DICK or something. Or that chap(pette?) with "1984" written out under his/her name.

It's much the same as achievements in games themselves. They hold the power to act as a convenient and welcomed breadcrumb trail to content than might have been missed... but most developers abuse them. Compare it to a developer's commentary on a DVD pointing out stuff in the background or trivia. On the flip side, kill 50 orcs / post 50 new threads is so very, very bad.

The badge system is in no way in your face on the escapist. It is a mere side distraction built for those who like collecting things, or some personal achievement!

To be honest I would be more worried if a site, such as this, devoted to gaming DIDN'T have any gaming mechanics to intice me! And the inclusion of gaming quizes and polls I thought were just part and parcel of a gaming website!

It would be dishonourable, however, if parts of the site were inaccessable because you didn't read 1000 articles a month and have a badge only obtainable by selling several family members on ebay! It's that type of exploitation that is wrong, not just having a feature (which let's be honest, is mostly about customisation) that is similar to that which appears in our favourite games!

So @ShamusYoung, I totally agree!

"If the only way to get them to stay for five more minutes is to give them five more minutes of free video content, you're going to go out of business."
Then prepare to go out of business. You must have some numbers somewhere that say all this badge stuff makes sense but I have always hated it and ignored it. I come here for all the great content and if anything the badges are a slight hindrance to that. Maybe a lot of poor saps out there are into collecting meaningless badges but if your content started to suck I would be collecting a "Visited the Escapist for the last time!" badge.

s_h_a_d_o:
@ShamusYoung
While we're on the subject of "gamification", do you think perhaps we might amend this ongoing linguistic transgression, and supplant the word "mechanism" for "mechanic". :|

Times change and so do languages. They are not static. People 500 years from now will probably consider many things "proper English" that you would abhor today.

I wish you could turn certain elements of the website off. The content is great, THAT's why I come here. You don't need to be throwing useless "Badges" in my face.

I love my badges, and I enjoy the gamification, its done a good job with it.

matrix3509:
You know Shamus, your defense of the Escapist sounded really convincing. Then I remember this is the same Escapist which tried to bleed their users of $20,000 so Yahtzee could go to PAX. Then I also remember this is the same Escapist that fans the fanboy flames every March in order to get a few extra clicks. I could go about things like the Pub Club (a.k.a. The "Pay Us or We'll Annoy The Shit Out of You" business model).

The sending Yahtzee to PAX was an optional thing, and you didn't have to donate to it, and some people really wanted to meet Yahtzee.

March Madness really only serves to get people banned and increase traffic, and you know what? Both of those are good things, it adds some chlorine to the forum's gene pool and nets the cite extra traffic, allowing them to bring you more content.

The Pub Club stuff doesn't annoy too much, the adds aren't that intrusive and it brings them more revenue, which, as previously stated, allows for more content.

If anything, I look at gamification as a way to introduce new readers or internet users to a website they may not have otherwise ever visited before. Sure, gamification can be exploitative to a certain degree, but that doesn't mean that it can't also be fun. Besides all that though, it always comes down to the user of the content. In the end, it's up to the consumer to determine whether they feel the ends justify the means. If reading through an article they may or may not be interested in is worth reward.

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