On Monday in Philadelphia, I attended an event at Wharton on Gamification. There were some interesting people there, some classically hilarious exercises, lots of university professors “harrumphing” and pan-asian cuisine. In rare moments of non tenure-tracked clarity, I learned a few things, got to see some cool people and meet some of our new allies. At the outset of the day, I was invited – along with some professors – to deliver the opening “debate” on gamification.
We started with a series of opening remarks and then had a discussion that was both lively and profoundly insane. I spent much of the time slack-jawed at the constant references to corporations as “evil” and the patently false statements about the lack of good examples of gamification (see some case studies here).
None of this was – per se – surprising. Innovation in design isn’t the province of academia; in fast moving, practical technologies like gamification and social media, they tend to lag substantially.
That’s why we developed the world’s first Gamification Certification Program that will be offered at Gamification Summit in September. Agencies, Startups, Global Brands, Non-Profits and Government all need gamification design skills today that are based on proven methodologies. We’re excited to be first to offer this, derived from the extensive work we’ve done with organizations large and small.
In Philly, Ian Bogost delivered one of the opening speeches. Its essence was that Gamification is Bullshit. You can read the full text of the screed here, but fair warning: it offers no new data, meaningful insights or frameworks for dialogue.
I decided to take a decidedly different approach with my talk. Though I gave it from short notes and my heart, I’ll do my best to transcribe it for you here:
Philadelphia, August 8, 2011
I’m obviously a proponent of Gamification.
But what interests me most about the subject, and my reason for being here today, isn’t short-term.
What makes gamification interesting isn’t the hundreds of startups that have been launched in the past year with game mechanics at their core. We know most of them will not survive.
What makes gamification mobile isn’t the $30 million+ raised by gamification platforms (BunchBall, Badgeville, SCVNGR, Kiip, etc) this year; good entrepreneurs know VC funding is a promissory note.
It’s not the unprecedented column inches devoted to coverage of gamification; the hype will eventually fade, replaced by hard work.
And it’s not the thousands of event attendees seeking to learn by doing, though these numbers will continue to increase over the next few years.
It is the industry we build here that will endure, and matter.
It is the 10,000 people who will gain their livelihood from designing engagement in organizations big and small.
It’s the underemployed game designers who continue to graduate from universities without job prospects who will find a home to tackle complex problems in industry and government.
It’s the hundreds of thousands of startups, agencies, global brands and governments worldwide that will be innovate and make their products and services better.
It is the millions of people whose days will get just a bit more rewarding and delightful, from the ATM to their desk job and everywhere in between.
And it’s the meaning we’ll enrich, educations we will improve, health we will foster and lives we will lengthen through the application of gamification design that will be among our most important legacies.
This is real work, meaningful work and important work. And I’m excited to help transform the world with you.
I also reiterated my firm belief that the criticism and concern about gamification is interesting and worthwhile to discuss, but that I think it needs to come from a constructive place. As we have always done at Gamification Summit, in the blog and everywhere we speak or write, we welcome quality and honest feedback and dialogue that advances the art and science of engagement.
I don’t believe that today’s key discussions should center on the term gamification itself (the market has spoken), whether it works (the results are real), or whether it’s bad (like any tool, this depends on the hand that wields it). The most important question facing us now is how do we scale the amazing early successes of gamification for the good of people, our society and the world. Oh yeah, and the economy, too.
We have innovators like Ananth Pai in Minnesota transforming education, NextJump getting their employees healthier and Recyclebank reducing our carbon footprint with gamification – just to name a few (you can see them all share their expertise at GSummit in September). Their early successes are astonishing. What we don’t know is how to scale them to every classroom, every gym and every neighborhood across America and the planet.
You can help.
Gamification Co will be hosting it’s second Gamification Summit in New York on September 15-16. Join keynotes from Gilt Groupe CEO Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and 42 Entertainment’s founder, Susan Bonds, to learn how the new science of engagement is rewriting the rules of product design. We are also offering the first ever Certificate in Gamification. For Gamification Blog readers, use discount code GCOBLOG for 25% off at http://gsummit.com/register. We look forward to seeing you there!
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