How gamification is hurting our industry

I honestly thought gamification has been dead for about 2 years ago, when I saw the last RFP come across my desk with a company requesting “gamification” as one of the features they wanted in their business app. But now, companies are trying resurrect the term to drum up more business. 

Gamification is an industry buzzword that some software designers use to describe the introduction of game design into apps that are business focused (instead of entertainment based.) It is a tactic provides value in very rare circumstances. The following need to be all true:

  • The people using the app are lacking motivation to complete their digital tasks and this motivational vacuum is not a systemic issue of a larger problem (like a crappy product or poor leadership)
  • There is no way to simplify the app in a way that makes it easier to use (in my experience, this is extremely rare).
  • The company using the technique has a playful culture – one that embraces “fun” as a part of their core values.
  • The primary objective of the app is either publishing or learning.

If you attempt to execute a gamification strategy to get your customers to do something that they do not want to do, you will be very disappointed in your results. In every circumstance I’ve seen a request for gamification, the primary objective was to prod people down paths they weren’t willing to naturally take. People aren’t cattle. Always keep this in mind: your job as a digital product designer is that you are here to serve your customers, not manipulate them. 


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