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I watched an interesting Google Talk video (warning about an hour of your time) about Gamification of whatever you are doing.

It's clear that the StackExchange set of sites employ quite a few of these principles. There's something compelling about making work fun, but I wonder how many problem domains can incorporate these ideas? They definitely apply to social applications, but is that all? The concept of a virtual loyalty program is also quite compelling.

Short description of Gamification:

There is a system of scoring and reward. For example, Reputation in StackExchange is a type of scoring. Badges are a type of reward. The additional priviledges you gain as your reputation goes up are also a type of reward.

An example of a loyalty program with no real redemption would be a promotion that a convenience store did a while back where you buy their products and get FarmVille credits in return. No real money or goods exchange hands, and the costs to the retailer are minimal at best. Yet it brings in real money for these virtual paybacks.

Shameless use of JohnL's link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification

NOTE: The speaker refers to four classes of users which seem to have become the archetypes. They are Achievers, Socializer, Explorer, and Killers. The Achievers would most likely apply to all of us programmers--we like to get things done. Apparently 80% of people are socializers and like light, non-confrontational interactions. Explorers go to every corner of a game/application to discover whatever easter eggs and hidden features they can. Killers not only want to win, they want you to lose and get praise/status for beating you.

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What about writing a short summary about Gamification for those of us who cannot watch the video? –  user281377 Dec 16 '10 at 13:44
    
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification. It's stuff like achievement badges and the rep levels. People answer questions constructively to get reputation, which is a score used for bragging rights. Badges are similar –  JohnL Dec 16 '10 at 13:58
    
There's an interesting question in here somewhere. Can you edit the question to make it more specific, and then cast a reopen vote to throw it into the reopen queue? –  Robert Harvey Apr 4 '13 at 20:58
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closed as not constructive by Jalayn, thorsten müller, gnat, MichaelT, Robert Harvey Apr 4 '13 at 20:58

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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's necessary.

Look at the most popular user based (social?) sites today. Facebook, Twitter, SO / SE, LinkedIn, Reddit. What do they all have in common?

Numbers

On Facebook it's how many friends you have, Twitter how many followers. SO / SE sites are a bit more explicit, they have reputation. LinkedIn is a bit more obscure, they have connections. Its a giant dick measuring contest that works.

By nature we want comparison and judgment. These sites give us that and that is what keeps us coming back. Without that magic number I don't think these sites would be nearly as successful as they are.

Does this mean that sites without a native ranking system are not worth time? No, but it does limit the attraction to being a repeat visitor. Some sites bypass this by offering an valued service. Google for searches, Wired for content, etc. "Gaming" the users is a very effective way of building a user base that has lots of loyalty in terms of repeat visits and contributions. Sites built on these contributions (SO / SE, Facebook, Slashdot...) do much better when they have a number.

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"I wonder how many problem domains can incorporate these ideas?" "They definitely apply to social applications, but is that all?" Not all problem domains or applications are social. The question wasn't specifically asking about user-based or social sites. Or even necessarily web apps. Is it necessary for an accounting app? -1 for the blanket statement that "It's necessary." –  Davy8 Dec 16 '10 at 14:14
    
@Josh that wasn't the reason for the downvote, just took some time to write my comment. –  Davy8 Dec 16 '10 at 14:15
    
@Davy8: "It's necessary" for sites built on user contributions, as I state in my final paragraph. –  Josh K Dec 16 '10 at 14:15
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Are you saying your dick is bigger than mine? :P –  back2dos Dec 16 '10 at 15:00
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Reputation points systems is nothing more than an exploit of the human weakness Josh is describing. The problem is the addiction that comes with it. –  user2567 Dec 16 '10 at 15:38
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I suppose the dangers are that people might become more concerned with playing the game than with actually making a worthwhile contribution to the site. This is similar to what is happening in politics -- is it truly that the most qualified leaders are getting elected or that the people who are good at manipulating and playing the game getting elected?

It would be tougher to do on a technical site like Stack Overflow obviously -- where the answer is 1 or 0 (it works or it doesn't) -- but probably easier at a subjective opinion site like this.

Of course the benefits are that the people who do contribute feel like they are getting something in return -- even if they are really getting nothing back (like playing video games).

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You still get reputation for asking good questions and answering them. You get better reward for having a popular answer more than a correct answer. But that's just one of the potential downfalls of applying gamification. There's also a number of benefits as well. –  Berin Loritsch Dec 16 '10 at 16:19
    
@Berin: Yes, I'm not trying to completely bash gamification -- only pointing out the potential pitfalls so that they are considered by someone attempting to create such a system. And remember what you said: "you get better reward for having a popular answer more than a correct answer" -- exactly my problem -- aren't we looking for correctness and completeness more than popularity (or shouldn't we be)? –  Watson Dec 16 '10 at 16:24
    
That in itself is a very good question. In an ideal world, the popular answer would also be the correct answer--however, in many cases there can be more than one correct answer. From the game implementer's point of view, you don't want to put artificial constraints on the game that make it less fun. From the Achiever's point of view, they want to win. From the Killer's point of view, they want to win and have you lose. Explorers aren't as affected by points. They get their reputation from finding stuff. –  Berin Loritsch Dec 16 '10 at 16:55
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