For the last two years, I’ve been quietly talking about a gamification code of ethics. The discussion tends to come up most often at dinner parties and during GSummit, but it’s also been a hot topic during debates about gamification’s role in the future. I firmly believe that part of the reason we get so much snark online for Gamification is not because it’s a passing fad, but rather because it’s a powerful force for change that threatens the existing order. While we could dodge the question of gamification’s potential to cause harm to society, I don’t think we should.
That’s why I want to start a dialogue with the whole community about a code of ethics for our industry — and we need your involvement.
Why Do This?
Let’s be clear: gamification is a (perhaps the most) powerful tool for voluntary behavior change that we’ve ever seen. We all know that it can be used for good (see: Foldit, Zamzee, Speed Camera Lottery, etc etc) and that — despite the banality of some implementations — there is no evidence of it being used widely for evil. We also know that the game, film, loyalty and behavioral economics industries don’t really have an omnibus code of ethics, despite their persuasive natures. We also know that some communities (e.g. games) vehemently resist the notion of codes of conduct because of their concerns about censorship. So, it would be relatively easy for us to feel unfairly singled out for criticism, and to take the same approach as theirs: bruising battles in courts both legal and public. But I think we can do better, save ourselves the cost and hassle of a future fight, and ensure we have a greater impact on the world.
How Do We Do This
The newly created Engagement Alliance has three core objectives: Education, Advocacy and Research. Under its auspices, we’re rolling out a universal training and certification program for gamification designers. Within that framework, I believe we should have a voluntary gamification ethics code that certified designers agree to uphold. Over time, the ethics elements of the curriculum can be expanded and these values will be understood as part of what organizations get when they hire a Certified Gamification Designer to help them create engagement.
What Is the Proposed Ethics Statement
Here’s a starting point for an ethics statement based on the conversations we’ve had with industry experts over the past few months. What you can do: Please provide your feedback and input in the comments below this post. If you’re interested in joining a working group to evaluate this and other industry issues, make a note of that in your comments as well. Eventually this statement will be put up for a vote among certified designers and peers, so we need to craft something that will be broadly accepted by our industry. It does us no good if only a small percentage of interested parties will agree to this, so please consider that in your feedback.
Here’s the working statement:
As an accredited Gamification Designer, I pledge my best effort to act in accordance with the following principles when creating systems of engagement:
- I will strive to design systems that help individuals, organizations and societies achieve their true potential, acting consistently with their values and enlightened interest.
- I will not obfuscate the use of game mechanics with intent to deceive users about the purpose or objectives of the system.
- Where practical by law and contract, I will make an effort to share what I’ve learned about motivating behavior with the community so that others may leverage this understanding to advance society and the state of the art
Now it’s your turn: add your comments, thoughts and feedback to the comments section of this post and let’s get the discussion underway.