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Gamification is a Tool, Like Any Other

Gamification is a Tool, Like Any Other

Rajat Paharia



Watch live streaming video from digitalshoreditch at

Richard Bartle’s cranky talk on gamification at the Digital Shoreditch conference a few weeks ago. Supposedly there are some spikes in the audio, so watch out.  I agree with some of what he says, disagree with other parts:

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic rewards - this topic has been debated a lot, with people calling traditional game mechanics (badges, levels, etc.) both. I tend to think that they’re somewhere in between. 

  • “If a reward isn’t valuable, it’s not a reward” - agreed - but I don’t agree that valuable means “goods or services” - there are many other things that people value.
  • “They readily acknowledge that their content isn’t compelling”. That’s just wrong. As we’ve been telling our customers for years - if your core content isn’t good, no amount of game mechanics is going to save you. Gamification drives engagement, participation and loyalty around your already good content. 
  • “Yay. Another Badge. Whoopee” - yes, agreed. If the reward is meaningless, that will be the appropriate response. So the challenge is to make the reward meaningful. And there are a lot of ways to impart meaning. 
  • “Gamification will not be ubiquitous after five years”. Wrong again. Bad/meaningless gamification will clearly be gone. But businesses that know how to use it well will be deriving tremendous benefit from it, while at the same time making their customers, employees and partners more engaged. 
  • We’ve never used his player types - while I see how they can be very useful for designing games, we don’t find them a useful framework when trying to design gamification programs.

Gamification is a tool like any other. Hammers, TVs, the internet. You can use them poorly, or you can use them well. You can use them for good or evil. They’re not inherently good or bad, it all depends on how you use them.

If you’d like to read a slew of opinions about why game designers have something stuck in their craw about gamification, check out this thread on quora:

(via Richard Bartle on Gamification: Too much of a good thing? | Gamification Research Network) Slides available here.

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