Badges do NOT equal Gamification

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dennis Crowley (founder of Foursquare) is largely (and accurately) credited with a new wave of innovation that promotes adding unique features to a consumer application to make it seem more like a game while also providing its value.  Foursquare’s success with these features has created a big buzz word in the start-up community…Gamify.  Talk to investors and you hear it all of the time…how are you gamifying?  What is your gaming strategy?  So, like all “hot” ideas, people rush to copy it without understanding it properly, and thus do not implement it properly.

I am not a hard-core gamer, but it seems to me that to make something a game, you need a challenge and a reward.  Games are often more fun when the challenges are competitive with only one winner.  Foursquare has nailed this with their mayorship feature.  But many copycat consumer apps really miss this point.  Giving people badges for doing things on your site is NOT the same as adding a gaming element to your user experience.  To make your UX a game, people have to knowingly strive to successfully achieve the challenge.  Frankly, I am sick of getting stupid badges for doing nothing.  “Hey, you just signed up…you got a Rookie badge.”  Really?  Where is the game in that?  That’s just plain stupid.  I now hate your site and will never return.

Bottom line, adding a gaming element to a user experience is a great idea.  If it is artfully done, it can help create explosive growth.  But forcing it into your UX for the sake of checking a box for investors is dumb.  And is likely to have the opposite effect of what was intended.

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