Status is Gamification’s Endgame (Badges Are Not)

Status is Gamification’s Endgame (Badges Are Not)


EMC Corporation, Gamified

First, let me express some incredible excitement that, along with an incredible team, I helped launch RAMP last week. RAMP, short for Recognition, Award, and Motivation Program, is EMC Corporation’s first gamification deployment.

This is a big deal for us.

RAMP went live to an community audience 230,000-members strong. The early feedback has been extremely positive and we are excited to partner with our community to evolve RAMP over time. Follow along here: and please leave comments there, or direct them to me on twitter, @TylerAltrup.


Two Lessons from the Gamification Trenches

Along the way, I have had the sincere pleasure of briefing dozens of internal teams on the current state and the future of gamification at EMC. There a few key points that I hit on in every discussion and two stand above the rest:

1. Gamification is an Amplifier, Not a Panacea

Gamification is a new concept to many folks across the enterprise, especially those outside of marketing. If you find yourself as the evangelist within your organization, it is crucial to emphasize its role as an amplifier–and not a panacea.

Game mechanics and behavioral mechanics can, and will, materially increase audience engagement with any form of content. It will not, however, make bad content better. A boring whitepaper is a boring whitepaper. Fantastic multimedia is still fantastic multimedia.

Gamification is the Speaker, Content is the Music

Think, for a moment, of gamification as a speaker. Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that you do not like terrible music. If we can agree on these, we can probably also agree that no amount of wattage could ever make Miley Cyrus’ music palatable. I could play it on my tiny phone speaker–or I could play it from concert-quality mega-speakers–the outcome remains the same.

In game-based marketing, the same holds true. No number of badges could make me want to spend more time viewing boring content. No mission structure could compel me to spend more time viewing terrible instructional videos.

Gamification gives marketers an incredible new toolkit but it requires a solid foundation upon which to work. As my mother might more colloquially put it, it can’t fix stupid. It cannot make bad content better.


2. Gamification’s Endgame is Status, Not Badges

It has become popular, in recent months, to rain criticism and skepticism on gamification. In some cases, I may even agree. Those that dismiss any gamified experience out of hand, however, are shortsighted. The majority of this snarky backlash is directed at a theoretical future state where we are submitted to badge overload at every turn.

This rejection is fundamentally misguided–these badges they so loathe are not the endgame of any thoughtful gamification. The endgame is status.

Stop to think for a moment about one of the most classic examples of gamified behavior: Boy Scouts. The endgame of scouting is not the collection of merit badges. The endgame is achieving the honor of the title of Eagle Scout. The endgame is status.

Universal, Portable, Comprehensive

I can speak to this from experience. I don’t even remember which merit badges I earned as an awkward teenager wearing a neckerchief and olive pants–but I remember my rank. And I remember it every time I network professionally–only to find out that there are other Eagles in the group. Needless to say, we never end up discussing how many badges we earned. Never.

Here again, the “status” of Eagle Scout holds true. The rank means roughly the same thing across the world, it follows its owner in any setting, and it summarizes a long list of individual accomplishments. This status is at once universal, portable, and comprehensive.

The same holds true for everything we are working to build at EMC. We are not building RAMP to give badges to our community. We are using badges, along with points, levels, and missions to create a meaningful status for our members. We want them to be able to showcase their talents, expertise, and accomplishments–and to see the same in others. We have some very ambitious plans to create an online status that is universal, portable, and comprehensive.




In case you were looking for proof, see #147.


About the Author

 TYLER ALTRUP is a Senior Social Media Engagement Manager at EMC Corporation specializing in social metrics, social monetization, and gamification.  He is a frequent blogger on all three topics, as well as music and gaming, at He is currently building an advanced social metrics glossary in order to create a library of advanced social metrics, along with an understanding of their correlative and causal relationships. He also led the recent launch of RAMP, EMC’s new gamification-powered Recognition, Award, and Motivation Program, on the EMC Community Network.

Tyler holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Missouri in Marketing, Latin, and International Studies as well as an MBA from Boston University. When he’s not on the clock, you can find him pwning n00bs on Xbox Live and PSN as TyBlues95. He wears jeans, sneakers, and giant headphones to work (and does not like cubicles). LinkedIn:


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