Competition or Cooperation? Gamification Succeeds at Both

Competition or Cooperation? Gamification Succeeds at Both

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Historically, games have focused on competition. Gambling, video games, board games, and athletic sports are often defined by having a winner. On Forbes a few weeks ago, author Haydn Shaughnessy looked at the rise of gamification and the return of game-like competition to the workplace. According to him, too many corporations focus solely on collaboration over competition, and “the pendulum should surely start to swing the other way”. This focus on competition places gamification in too small a box. Collaboration and competition aren’t themselves in a Thunderdome style zero-sum contest (“Two ideas enter! One idea leaves!”). Instead, by applying gamification to a systems level analysis, designers, marketers, and managers can create a project where competition and collaboration go hand in hand.

In the Forbes article, Shaughnessy observes that “over the past 18 months we’ve rediscovered the value of competition” and “gamification is the ungainly name for its re-emergence in the social sphere.” As I mentioned earlier, games are often characterized by competition, but competition is by no means synonymous with gamification. As the Bartle Test established nearly fifteen years ago and has since been effectively updated by Jon Radoff, competition is actually a minority when compared to the other reasons people come together to play. Immersion, cooperation, and achievement are often bigger motivators than the drive to win at the cost of others. On average, only 5% of players focus primarily on competition, whereas 75% are primarily collaborators.

To return to the focus on business, you can apply this knowledge towards designing gamified applications for the workplace. Two main examples come to light, team management and adversarial collaboration. Oftentimes in teams, players who are driven to compete or achieve rise to leadership roles, but 75% of the population can’t be left behind. Instead, managers and designers need to create a team environment where collaboration is the focus and collaborative results lead to a competitive advantage. Secondly, when you look at many industries and even many offices, adversarial collaboration becomes apparent, where two sides are competing in order to increase total knowledge resources. Gamified apps like the now well known fold.it show how this can be successful. Although competition may drive short term advantages, shared information and shared resources ensure that the entire system moves forward.

These two examples show how collaboration and competition are not mutually exclusive. To put it bluntly, with gamification, they can cooperate in order to achieve better ends and a larger return.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. It seems that some managers have forgotten how business school was. In my MBA program we had to work as a team (in groups) to get projects complete. However there was competition on the group level as well as on the larger individual level (class positions).

    When businesses are considering applying game mechanics to their team or even applications, it doesn’t have to be all badges and levels. And it’s easy enough to combine collaboration and competition at the multiple levels I mentioned above.

    • Robert – good point. I think the main difference between traditional team-based designs in school/work and those that are now being proposed is that the “old” approach struggles to turn team achievement into viable individual scores. Without that element, team play always falls a bit flat.

      -Gabe

      • To that point and something you’ve said in your books it’s possible to have multiple “leaderboards” slicing and dicing the measurement data different ways. So we can look at the team level, the individual level within the team, and even make comparisons across the board. We see this in sports.

        While it is a paradigm shift for many in business (based on the business education I was given) it’s possible and we have many examples of it working in other areas.

  2. […] @Gzicherm. Competition or Cooperation? Gamification Succeeds at Both. Historically, games have focused on competition. Gambling, video games, board games, and athletic sports are often defined by having a winner. On Forbes a few weeks ago, author Haydn Shaughnessy looked at the rise of gamification and the return of game-like competition to the workplace. According to him, too many corporations focus solely on collaboration […] […]

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