Game Time Is Over, Now Do Some Work

By Nathaniel Mott , written on April 4, 2012

From The News Desk

Working on the PandoTicker gives me a unique perspective of the high-level stuff that's going on in the industry, affording me the chance not only to add a little bit of snark to the Ticker posts (who doesn't love snark?) but also to catch up on some of the latest trends, and either praise them or call bullshit.

Lately the product du jour appears to be a new method of gamification, turning the Web into a series of achievements and arbitrary goals. But the question I want to ask is: Do we really want the entire Web to be a game?

There are some instances where gamification really works. I recently downloaded Fitocracy on my iPhone, and once I have access to a gym, the gamed approach to exercising will likely motivate me to get off of my growing behind. Being a slightly overweight tech writer who sits in front of the computer for ten hours a day, for me Fitocracy has taken something that seems about as appealing as swallowing razor blades, and added daily goals and fun achievements. Good stuff.

There are also times where gamification makes me want to punch the nearest wall or go work in a steel mill, so I can feel like I'm doing some "big boy" work.

Case in point: WordPress. I had never noticed this before beginning at PandoDaily, but WordPress doesn't seem to recognize the difference between someone that doesn't know how to use a blogging system and someone using their VIP, this-is-serious-business to do some actual writing. The first time I posted to PandoDaily I was greeted with a little sidebar that screamed "Congratulations, you've made your first post! Next goal: Make five posts!" with a little star next to it, which made me feel like I had just learned the alphabet and impressed my kindergarten teacher.

Why does something like Fitocracy work, when something like WordPress' hand-holding doesn't? Two reasons.

One, because I knew that Fitocracy was turning exercise into a game, when I downloaded the app. I knew what I was in for, and I made an informed decision to change from the typical "calories consumed versus muscles worked" routine. In short: I chose to play a game.

Two, exercising isn't my job. It may feel like it, as I'm sweating bullets at a whopping 2.5 MPH walk, but it doesn't put money on the table and food in the bank. (I think I might have that backwards.) Posting to PandoDaily is my job, and I don't need WordPress to hold my hand and make me feel like a Big Boy Writer. The weight of the activity influences how I react to it being turned into a game.

I understand the motivations behind gamification, from the desire to turn advertising into an engagement-based, active model to the realization that people don't enjoy doing shitty, boring things. In some instances, as with CampusLive's model or that of Fitocracy, I'm actually glad that gamification is occuring.

Please, though: don't make everything a game. Sometimes it's time to step away from the GI Joes and the sandbox and get to work, and it's time that we accept that.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]