Bring up the word ‘gamification’ to many game makers and you’ll get a common response -- a facial expression that’s similar to what you might have after accidentally stepping in dog droppings on the street. Google ‘Gamification, bad word’ and you’ll find your share of diatribes against this whole trend, though the problem seems to be less about the idea -- using game-like mechanics to change behavior -- and more about the term used to describe it.
Tracking the hot trend of gamification -- using game-like elements to boost engagement in everything from social games, such as Zynga's FarmVille, to losing weight and staying on top of your finances.
Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync.
In one of those rare, only-on-the-Internet moments, an anonymous former Zynga employee has opened the floodgates, speaking in great detail about his experiences, both good and bad. The question-and-answer session, hosted on reddit, has already cased a firestorm of controversy, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in gamification, casual and social games, or the interactive entertainment industry in general.
To be honest, I have a lot more interest in the high-profile Super Bowl commercials than the Super Bowl itself. But football is, under all the money and hype, still a game, and the natural question to ask is, how do we tie interactive and/or video games in with this once-a-year cultural experience?
Spending much of my time delving into the trends driving social and casual games, it's worth noting a slow-burn development that may be of use to gamification developers. The once lowly Hidden Object Game, or HOG, has come to eclipse farming/city building/etc.
So many game mechanics rely on proprietary points systems, especially gamification plays that involve collecting or loyalty card programs. Is the humble 'point' a needless level of abstraction?
The best gamification ideas usually come from just outside the traditional game space (and typically not from gamification 'experts' who are too busy adding badges and points to everything under the sun). The latest blockbuster idea, which could easily be adapted for some really interesting game mechanics, is Pinterest.
New Xbox 360 dashboard software update further blurs the line between games, television, and social networking
Adding game-like elements to your product or service isn't just about slapping a badge notifications all over everything. The key metric should always be to actually create an experience that provides real game play and, most importantly, fun -- even if it's in the service of a greater goal, whether it's engaging people with a charity or with a new brand of shoes.
There most common gamification platform may be your standard PC web browser, typically accessed via a laptop or desktop computer, but every new piece of personal tech hardware has the potential to open up new avenues. For example, mobile phones and tablets such as the iPad have had some gamification success, especially when it comes to GPS-powered location-specific game features, such as check-ins at a specific place.
If you're at all interested in the world of social and casual games, and the gamification of social media, the stream of major and minor changes from Facebook over the past week or so has got to be top of mind. Besides the major F8 developer conference, which introduced Timeline and an updated version of Open Graph, we've also seen the introduction of Facebook subscriptions and an updated news feed in the past few weeks.