Gamification is a gimmick, engagement is not.

That was the conclusion at a Wharton conference centred on “Gameful Approaches to Motivation and Engagement."
Gamification is a gimmick, engagement is not.

As conference organiser, Kevin Werbach, stated, “If you listen to the popular magazine conversation [about gamification], there was this arc of hype and then the classic disillusionment.”

Still, gamification is a trend that crops up time and time again. It’s something we’re regularly asked - do we have gamification in Zapnito?

What is gamification?

The answer isn’t as clear cut as you’d expect. To start with, you must look at what gamification actually is.

One definition states that it’s: "The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service."

The same definition goes on to explain that gamification has exciting applications because it promises to make the mundane more fun.

Candy Crush inspired

So it comes as little surprise that gamification is rooted in the premise that using dopamine-inducing features (as found in games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds) drives engagement. 

That’s why some tech providers have created game-like features to motivate users to complete certain actions - levels, badges and other prizes.

But vendors who tout game-theory as their main product feature should be sent straight to Jelly Jail. 

Unnecessary noise

I see blatant gamification features for anything knowledge-related as just creating noise. Meaning that users have to click or move beyond it to glean anything noteworthy. Given that knowledge is the primary reason for joining a network or community, lots of gamification is (largely) unnecessary.

When we think about Zapnito’s features, we focus first on our users and the ‘Jobs They Are Doing’. 

 Sure, we have "likes", "voting", sharing, contributor analytics, follower counts and other features that might fall into the gamification category. But these are designed to complement the initial objective - not hinder it. Gamification is not a ‘Job To Be Done’ that exists in a vacuum.

Asking why?

So, when someone comes to us and asks about gamification, we return to the ground roots of what they’re asking. What’s the ‘Job That Needs Doing’?

We could simply answer “Yes, we do that” but it misses the point. The goal that a potential customer wants from their community. I am becoming more curious about why someone asks about gamification. What does gamification buy you?

Your true focus 

The answer should never be to slap more points, badges, levels and rewards onto a knowledge-sharing product. That will just make it hold less value. To the company and it's users. 

Instead, our focus should be on creating and sharing knowledge, connecting users and rewarding them through their contribution to the community. True thought-leadership. Increasing your expert contribution and collaboration. Promoting networking and matchmaking. And elevating through learning and mentoring. Gamification in itself holds very little weight when you have a true expert community helping others communicate and drive innovation.