The Downside of Gamification

To borrow a line from Dave Ramsey, when your vocation is an avocation, your life is a vacation. Gamification is touted as one way to do this for millions of people who are otherwise stuck in jobs they don’t like.

What is gamification? Gamification is the process of making tasks like work and learning fun. Gamification has the potential to engage students and keep them engaged over a long period of time, improving the speed of learning. By being fun, they’ll repeat lessons, improving retention. Gamification could lead to those who are depressed or uninvolved in the work force to become involved, because it isn’t seen as boring. Gamification is being touted as not only the future of online learning, but of work itself, making work a fun activity for which you get paid. However, there is a downside to gamification.

• If you expect everything to be a game, necessary but boring tasks are refused. Imagine a world full of adults who won’t scan security cameras for potential terrorists or review database entries for errors unless it is made fun.
• The work to make other tasks a game could be better spent in other endeavors, like debugging software, improve user interfaces and streamlining data transfers between databases.
• By catering to the immature, who won’t work unless it is fun, we enable adults who won’t work unless the world is tailored to their expectations. If they learn that there will be lots of work that is fun, they will develop a sense of entitlement and refuse productive work that must be done – whether cleaning a house, cleaning the streets or taking care of others.
• Most work that is easily “game-ified” is repetitive and otherwise monotonous, and thus fair game for replacement by an artificial intelligence.
• Promises of payment for playing games are an open invitation to a new generation of online scam artists. Get paid to play! And then install malicious software that runs in the background while you play games.
• Focusing on the fun can lead to the glossing over of deep, serious discussions that improve overall understanding of a subject.
• Detailed cognitive tasks like research and data analysis are not game-friendly, and trying to do so lowers the actual thought that goes into it. However, I will admit that prizes and contents for innovations and research DO lead to major outcomes. The Ansari / X Prize and solar car competitions are excellent examples of how incentives and competition resulted in serious technological innovations.