The Agendafication of Gamification

By: Sam Liberty

What we talk about when we talk about gamification

Gamified systems are inherently agenda-driven. After all, they are designed to bring about an outcome, to get us to do things. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself, especially since the inherent agenda of gamified systems (for example, gamifying worker productivity) are fairly bald about what they’re doing.

What Gamification Is and What It’s Not

If you are already well versed in gamification, by all means skip this section, but many students, academics, and working professionals I encounter are still confused by this term. So before moving forward, let’s be on the safe side and try to define it.

When Gamified Design Is Just Good Design

To draw out the distinction a little better, here is an example from health policy. In international development, there is a practice known as Results Based Financing (RBF). In other contexts it is sometimes referred to as “paying for results.” Let me describe for you a simplified example of RBF in action:

So Why Say Gamification At All?

Given that there is nothing new or novel about incentivizing behaviors, and the motivators used in gamification are psychological or material in nature, not necessarily game-based, why do we insist on using this word?

  1. It is used by pro-game pedagogues who subscribe to a certain rhetorical view of play to validate their thinking and heap glory on themselves.
  2. It is used derisively by skeptics who see gamification as a dishonest psychological trick to discredit the above two.

What They Mean and What You Hear

Gamification is not just another buzz word, and it is not simply a bit of jargon meant to communicate ideas more precisely amongst professionals. The fact that no one can agree on a definition makes it useless as a technical term. It is an emotional term, not a technical one, and the people who use it do so with an agenda, whether they mean to or not.

Co-Founder of Extra Ludic; Designing and teaching serious games for social change and real-world impact

Co-Founder of Extra Ludic; Designing and teaching serious games for social change and real-world impact