Tricky question. I was invited to give a guest lecture at the MA Global Media Management at WSA and one of the questions at the end of the talk was: What if gamification becomes boring? In the talk, I showed them a video of Bunchball’s application Nitro and its influence on the work environment. After that, the students had to think about good practices or bad practices of gamification in the context of the promotional video. A few opinions emerged from this day – and I would like to discuss them with you in this post.
“Users might feel bored after a certain time…”
After interacting with an application that has gamification users could feel bored as it is always the same strategy. This might happen a lot, particularly when using the same recipe for the same type of problem. If the users get bored after a certain time, you’ve missed a very important point. Gamification can be about some types of motivation (i.e. intrinsic vs. extrinsic), but it’s all about Game Design Thinking – and some psychology! If you don’t think as a game designer (designer in bold!), the strategy will fail. In a game, players level up, they have different types of challenges, and so on. Treating the “gamified” application as the same thing always, it’s not good. People will learn from it and then, they will feel bored. This is one principle. We can always discuss that this is related to the FLOW theory, which discusses the balance between challenges and skills. So, if your users learnt how to do a task you don’t need to keep “nudging” them to keep doing it because they already know how to do that.
Another point to consider is that people’s goals change over time. So, let’s say that people are interested in participating and interacting with this gamified system because they know this will help them to achieve “x”. Right, so once you achieve “x” and you become an expert in “x”, that’s it. Job done. For this reason, it looks like gamification is not something that will exist forever. It’s just a way to “nudge” people and help them change their behaviours – at some point. This makes sense, and I hope no one was expecting to live like that all the time.
“Users might know that you’re trying to make them do things…”
One of the main discussions in persuasive attempts (including advertising) is Persuasion Knowledge (PKM). This means that once people know that they are being persuaded to do something, they start by having a negative attitude. This is all about “persuasion literacy”. You’ve learnt that strategy; hence you don’t want to feel manipulated. However, even in that way, gamification shouldn’t be about “manipulation”, otherwise you’re missing the point again. If users don’t feel like doing things, your strategy will fail. Again, when we think about the goals of the “gamified” application, this goal should meet the user’s goals.
Another thing to think about in this category is that games are voluntary and gamification should be voluntary as well (no?). But in the work environment, how can we choose to participate? I think one of the main things is this “invitation”. But are you really invited to take part in these tasks?
So, how might gamification become ‘boring’?
Lack of Variety, Poorly Designed Progression, Overly Complex or Confusing, Lack of Clear Purpose or Meaning, Ineffective Feedback and Overreliance on Rewards can be a few aspects that might make gamification boring, in the same way they would make some games boring. So making it more dynamic, would be the case, but there is a need to balance dynamics with intrinsic motivation. It is important to also consider player agency in this case. How much of the activity is controlled by the player and how much is controlled by other stakeholders? That balance is still a bit blurred. Hopefully we can find answers soon.