The way of the exploit
One thing that we have mentioned before was the creation of rules necessary to the implementation of a good gamification environment! In video-games since the game-designers control the environment, it’s easier to enforce those rules. For example, you can limit an area in a map creating by obstacles that the player just can’t get through, so you know that the player can only move in a specific area.
However there is a limit to the number of variables that human beings can foresee and prevent in complex environments. This brings to the table something called exploits. Exploits, in this setting, is taking advantage of a flaw in game design or a glitch, to the advantage of the exploiter.
Some exploit examples in games: 15 funniest, most unfair and memorable exploits .
For example in Skyrim you could use the enchanting skill to create a weapon that would give you a boost to your alchemy skill, which in turn could be used to create a potion that would boost your enchanting skill and so on, creating a loop in skill boosting until your skills were strong enough for you to be practically unbeatable.
In another example, in battlefield 3, a lot of experience points could be earned in multiplayer matches by having friendly engineers damaging the player’s EOD bots while the player would repair them. Doing this repeatedly, and, of course, taking turns on this exploit, both players would earn a lot of experience without even playing the game per se.
The possibility for exploits in gamification is also an important thing to consider. This behavior will most probably arise in the case where the reward assumes more meaning than the action by itself (overjustification effect). This kind of pavlovian behavior might even not be a problem if we’re talking about some task in which only the outcome matters independently of the way it happens. Of course we’re considering that, in this specific case, this behavior will not affect negatively another player or anyone for that matter.
An example on recycling
Lets consider a very simple gamification(so simple you could even argue that’s not gamification) experience regarding recycling. The “player” would be rewarded with 10$ each time that he would send 100 plastic bottles to recycling. If the player contacted several companies which would normally throw away they used plastic bottles to the garbage bin and promised to pay them 5$ per 100 bottles that they would deliver to recycling, that would be obviously an exploit of the system, since that was not what was in mind when this incentive was created.
In practical terms this “player” would be earning half of the reward without doing what he was expected to do. He probably even only had a mind for the reward and not really for the action of recycling by itself. But in this case, the outcome of the experience is probably better than expected since those companies which otherwise would not probably even know about that initiative, are now contributing.
Of course that this is still ethically questionable and a good candidate for debate but we wont be judging that.
Some things can be done to try to prevent it
In the gamification process the gamifier must be ready to consider a lot of different approaches and ways of circumvent the rules already created to make sure that the experience is functional and still serves a purpose. It’s important to consider the relative value of the extrinsic reward in comparison with intrinsic value of the experience by itself, the latter should be higher or equivalent to the first. However even the intrinsic reward can pose a challenge to an exploit free environment.
If you consider competition, it is an effective motivational gimmick, but the higher the level of competition the more the person is prone to corruption, exploitation or cheating. You can even witness it in many worldwide scenarios, you just have to keep up with the News. At the end, it really depends on the type of person that we’re talking about. Here we’re talking about, of course, of the different types of psychological profiles different people present and how these profiles affect the way they behave in specific scenarios.
Cheating, on the other hand(despite exploits can be considered cheating), is not a big deal in gamification for a very simple reason, the “player” unlike in a game is not merely searching for entertainment as is normally the case in game playing, but has an objective which he wishes to complete.
While cheating, he’s only fooling himself and probably his objective will remain unfinished, so I guess no “player” will conscientiously want to cheat. Unless, of course, there is some kind of multi-player competition where in fact one “player” has an unfair competitive advantage over another because of cheating, then there is a problem with which the gamifier has to deal.