Not “Gamification” — it’s “Exploitationware”

May 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Ian’s call to re-brand “gamification” as “exploitationware” is getting a lot of attention. It was covered in the Wall Street Journal’s blog yesterday. It’s certainly true that the term “gamification” is getting traction, e.g., I was just on an NSF panel where reviewers praised proposals trying to “gamify” educational software.  Ian points out that the language matters.  Consider the different connotations between “global warming” and “climate change,” where both terms are describing the same phenomena but from different political perspectives.  Most of the comments on Ian’s blog seem to be saying, “Give up! It’s too late.”  But I agree with Ian’s strategy. It is possible to change language, by calling attention to it and offering a significant alternative.

Note how deftly Zicherman makes his readers believe that points, badges, levels, leader boards, and rewards are “key game mechanics.” This is wrong, of course — key game mechanics are the operational parts of games that produce an experience of interest, enlightenment, terror, fascination, hope, or any number of other sensations. Points and levels and the like are mere gestures that provide structure and measure progress within such a system.

But as Frank Luntz has shown time and time again, reality matters far less than perception. When people hear “gamification,” it’s this incredible facility that registers, the simplicity, smoothness, and ease with which the wild, magical beast of games can be tamed and integrated into any other context at low cost and high scale.

Margaret Robertson has critiqued gamification on the basis that it takes the least essential aspects of games and presents them as the most essential. Robertson coins the derogatory term pointsification as a more accurate description of this process.

via Gamasutra – Features – Persuasive Games: Exploitationware.

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