Red Flags in Gamification Experiences

Red Flags in Gamification Experiences

The Loser Tends to Give Up!

That’s something that you can testify in every game you play when it involves a a group of people competing. The players on the lower end of the scoreboard are, most of the time, more prone to abandon the game. They feel they’re not good enough to compete with the other players (sometimes this is not accepted by the player and multiple reasons and excuses are used for the player to not admit being a worse player than the others) and see no potential reward in their efforts.

This means that the people on the lower end of the scoreboard may lack motivation to continue playing. Of course this is not always true, it depends a lot on the type of player that we are talking about, it also depends on the objectives of that same player, maybe the player doesn’t care at all what his position is on the scoreboard. Maybe he is satisfied enough if he’s a socializer and has a lot of friends in the game.

A Man With a Plan

When we talk about gamification, the “player” has a clear objective in mind. So in this regard it will probably be a bit different. The objective of the player is probably not to socialize but to simply accomplish that objective.

So it really depends on the setting of the gamification experience. If you are in a setting where you are learning to cook, being the best chef in the entire “game” is probably not really your main objective, so being in the bottom of the scoreboard is not really a problem as long as you learn to cook. Unless, of course, you are a very competitive person.

That being said, the point is getting you to learn and we can say that the experience was a success even if you are at the bottom of the scoreboard, assuming you have learned how to cook. But this just tells us one thing: in this case, the scoreboard doesn’t really make a difference.

Working Angle

But if we are talking about the working environment where your place in the scoreboard might give a perception of your value to the company, that’s a whole new story.

This need of being in the top of the ladder may lead to several problems though. Lets think about it for a second.

If the “winner” is constantly the same, some of the other players might start pondering if the effort to try to be the best is worth it, since they simple look at it as a “can’t win” situation.

This situation tends to aggravate in case of a long term scenario. If you, for example, have a gamification scenario extending for 6 months or more and the gap in the results between the top of the scoreboard and the rest, gets big very early, to a point where other players don’t see a way of recovering the distance to the top, naturally the competition boost fades away. If the core of the scenario is the competition factor, in this case the gamification scenario just fails.

If someone has to “win” that specific gamification experience, if one or a couple of winner(s) is what it’s meant to happen in that experience, after a while the boost of motivation that said experience should bring to the table, is lost. For both the lower end of the scoreboard as for the higher end of the scoreboard. If the first case is already covered by the text above, the latter happens because of the lack of motivated competition perceived by the “players” at the top. If these players see their effort as a “walk in the park”, soon enough they will lose interest.

Different People, Different Ideas

Another thing to consider is that different people have different objectives. When creating a gamification experience you have to be careful to not only appeal to several types of people, but also checking if the objective of the experience is also aligned with the objectives of the different types of people, being the most comprehensive as possible. In other words if you have a gamification experience with the creation of only one final goal, that may just serve the players aligned with that goal and neglect the others.

Yet, another thing to consider is that player’s frustration may automatically lead to rejection of the experience in its whole. And this frustration can originate from various situations:
– The player can’t handle “defeat”;
– The experience has a high learning curve and the player becomes overwhelmed by it;
– Players with more work experience may feel threatened by this novelty in their workplace;
– The player was forced to play.

The Rules of a Gamification Experience

Every game has its rules. It’s the same with gamification. The rules must be cautiously defined according the objective defined for the gamification experience, but it must also consider the different profiles of the players. The rules must be thought carefully so they do not favor a player with certain characteristics in detriment of others without those characteristics.

One thing that may happen is that the frustration originated from the inability of achieving a win, makes the “player” a lot more predisposed to bend or even break the rules to improve his chance of winning. The probability of this happening only gets worse if we consider the aggressiveness factor that generally follows competition.

Do you remember other details that could spoil the gamification experience? Please share it with us!

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