So what is "gamification"?

I talk to a fair amount of folks who want to know what gamification is. They're building a meditation app or trying to encourage calls to congresspeople or have people engage in some other wholesome activity, and "gamification" seems genuinely helpful in achieving that goal. Just add points!

Maybe you're wondering about it, too. Is it bullshit? Or is it useful?

Usually when people say "gamification" they mean applying the somewhat superficial elements of "games" to some marketing or fundraising challenge - adding points, levels, rewards to an activity that in and of itself is not inherently playful.

That can be OK for short-term benefits, and yes, competition can be motivating, but there's research that shows extrinsic motivators don't hold a lot of water for people over the long haul.

Think of a teacher adding a scoreboard to a class taking a math quiz. Kids are still taking a math quiz. Just... with points :-/ In the educational games world, we usually call this "chocolate covered broccoli." As adults we're so used to this socialization and so it can be pretty effective... we crave our gold stars and points and leaderboards!

But it can be even more powerful to add real play to whatever you're doing. Then people want to engage and share and learn about whatever you're doing - not just get the carrot at the end. They're excited to mess around and dig in and figure things out... because it's fun!

Points and levels can be useful, but whatever you're trying to do for your organization (engage donors, spread awareness, train volunteers) there's almost certainly a way to do it playfully that'll go even deeper.

The question then becomes, "How?"

We'll look at that a bit tomorrow.

Till then,