The Gamification Awards, Cheating and Design Lessons

The Gamification Awards, Cheating and Design Lessons


Recently we launched the G-Awards, a contest designed to uncover and recognize great contributions in Gamification across a range of industries. We designed the awards to have two tracks – a popular vote (run on the awesome technology of listly) and a juried program, voted on by key thought leaders and designers in gamification.

To say that the reception for the awards has been beyond our expectations would be an understatement. We’ve watched as tens of thousands of people have visited the GSummit site, choosing their favorites, and becoming exposed to the gamification movement as a whole. In recent days however, it’s become obvious that many entrants have been cheating.

Whether they’ve been buying votes, using fake accounts, running bots or completely unaware of the goings-on, there have been many exploits of the Facebook and Twitter-auth voting system. Luckily, Listly makes it really easy to inspect the votes and see which ones are obvious frauds, suspect or seemingly authentic. After numerous hours spent reviewing the complaints and activity on the public awards, it seems clear that there has been enough unusual activity to render the entire process suspect. To that end, we’re suspending the popular vote element of the program.

However, we are leaving the popular vote leaderboards in place so that you can check them out for yourself. Feel free to click around and make your own decisions about who cheated and who didn’t.

If you’ve joined me for a workshop, you’ll know that I often talk about cheating in the context of gamification. One of the lessons from the design framework is that if you build a system that is meaningful to users, they will find ways to exploit it. Defeating cheating is hard to do until the system is in play, and it’s critical to have the ability to adapt to the exploits in real time. Next year at the GAwards, we’ll be introducing a newer approach designed to be more flexible and adaptable to counter measures. But there’s no doubt that the demand for the awards themselves highlights the growing influence of the Gamification industry – and we’re confident the juried portion well represents the peer-reviewed state of the art.

Our plan all along has been to give out a physical award to juried winners at GSummit on June 20th at 630pm – and that peer-reviewed program will continue as planned. We’ve designed amazing trophies, and have a surprise award to give out – so the event promises to be truly festive. Winners will be receiving their notifications shortly, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all at GSummit in a couple of weeks.


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.


  1. Kinda lame.  If the validation systems aren’t good enough then it’s a waste of time to the users(usually with a risk of privacy) to do social voting.

  2. The answer is simple.  Disqualify the entries that cheated and then you are left with winners.  This will reward the folks that kept things clean.  It will also set a precedent for next year for entrants to play clean.

  3. As any of us who have applied and/or studied gamification can attest, you get exactly the behaviors you reward (with hardly anything more or less). 

    Nothing you’ve described about the popular voting processes surprises me. Any time you reward quantity over quality, that’s exactly what you’ll get.