November 18, 2010

Scoring Irrelevance

We’ve seen an explosion of meta gaming on the web in the past couple of years. Ever since Foursquare brought badges into the web conscience an influx of copycats have sprung up attempting to implement gaming features of their own. These days you’ll find badges and rewards systems on many of the Internet’s most popular sites. But the model has always struck me as flawed. It’s the cart coming before the horse. What the whole equation is missing is game design.

Established web vets like Yelp, The Huffington Post and Gowalla, as well as upstarts have all started to hand out badges and scores for their user’s activity. What all these sites are lacking though is an attractive game mechanic. Or, to put it more bluntly – the fun! These sites hand out scores, advance you to the next level, and display it all on a scoreboard. But, they’ve failed to create an enticing game. They are scoring irrelevance.

Apparently I’m not the only one who noticed. Sebastian Deterding put together a great presentation titled “Pawned. Gamification and its Discontents”. It goes into some depth regarding the current “gamification of the web” and the problems surrounding its implementation. My own personal favorite quote is:

Video games are not fun because they’re video games, but if and only if they are well-designed. >>>>Just adding<< something from games isn’t a guarantee for fun. To make something fun, you need all the hard work of game design: iterating, prototyping, playtesting, balancing - all preferably performed by real game designers.

If you’ve got any interest on the subjects of gaming, the web, and their intersection I’d suggest taking a look: