Is gamification a form of manipulation?
This is a question that comes up over and over again in my world.
There is often a concern that gamification is just used to force or trick people into doing things that they would not otherwise want to do. It as is if people have the view that it is like one of those old Saturday night magic shows, where the hypnotist get people to pretend they were chickens.
They view gamification as nothing more than a Skinner Box, operant conditioning for a new generation. People rewarded for actions that serve only the “powers that be” with no regard for the needs of the user.
The issue is, that is often how gamification is used. Do this, get a point. Do that, get more points. Do it 20 times, get a badge and put your name on the leaderboard.
But gamification can be and should be, so much more than that.
Narratives, challenges, quests, play, charity, collaboration, competition, progress, feedback and yes rewards and badges – but so, so, so much more. You just need to look harder for better examples!
We as designers also have to try harder, to start to surface better case studies and practices.
Is gamification manipulation? It can be. In the same way as a hammer can be used to put a screw into a board. It will certainly do it, but there are better uses of a hammer and better tools for putting a screw into aboard.
And that is the point. Gamification is a tool and like all tools, it needs to be used for the right purposes and with the right materials and in the right context.