In an earlier column, I derided the idea of gamification almost in passing. It is a concept I would like to discuss more fully.
A little bit of gamification doesn’t hurt. Sites like 1UP and Giant Bomb dispense arbitrary point values to users as they complete tasks and visit pages. And they come by it honestly. In fact, one could call the implementation clever…maybe even subversive.
But Klout’s implementation of game mechanics really crosses the line. Klout scores your social network reach via completely arbitrary and unexplained numbers and pretty graphs. Today, I have a Klout score of 42, which tells me absolutely nothing. Maybe I won a red snapper. I have no idea.
And now I am getting badges, and I can give people +K. Essentially, this is designed to persuade me to use the site more…probably because the site isn’t very interesting or exciting to begin with.
What bothers me most is that this isn’t actually a service or product. It’s just a thing to tell you how you’re doing on Twitter, which shouldn’t matter at all. Who in the world wants to know how influential their chitchat about video games, sports, #OccupyWallStreet, or knitting is? (As noted, I am 42 Klout score influential.) And if you think any of that matters, a) Why are you talking about it on the Internet?, b) What are you going to do with that Klout score?, and c) You realize you can’t use an epeen for actual sex, right?
Anytime you see a website offer you a badge or achievement, keep in mind that they paid someone to advise them on how to best trick you into reloading the webpage you are currently reading. Do them a favor: refresh once, and then go read something good.
We play video games because they’re worthwhile. They are experiences unto themselves – fun, interesting, scary, informative, or a thousand other things.
Gamification rewards us for doing stuff we are already doing.
See the difference? Congratulations…you just earned a badge.