The Gamification of Apps

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APpsApps are rapidly turning into games. Obviously, apps that are already games aren’t what we’re talking about, here – instead, it’s apps that are designed without gaming in mind that are being influenced by games and their ability to incentivize the way we engage with them. These days, you’re just as likely to level up in a social check-in app as you are in an RPG – and that’s fantastic.

It has however been suggested that this may be the wrong approach – that so many apps are gamififying their mechanics to the point where it’s impossible to find a social iPhone app that works straightforwardly, rather than constantly awards you badges and experience points. While these incentives do reward users, apps should retain some level of purity, and as Ingrid Lunden states, this approach means that “many of the apps using the technique are becoming noise themselves.”

It’s true – play a session of Angry Birds and all the mechanics fit because you’re playing a game. But if you then start to find star ratings and unlocks inside your banking app, it’s not unlikely that the app will not be as efficient or fully-featured as it could be because the incentives have begun to replace the actual features.

Foursquare is definitely a service that worked very well and had a noticeable presence when it first launched, but these days it’s easy to feel that someone’s a bit odd when they’re still auto-tweeting the fact they’ve become Mayor of their local Starbucks in 2013. The reason for this is that while the app had medals and various accomplishments, it was essentially built around its gamification mechanics and offered little else – there was no real need to have a service to tell people where you were unless you were really keen on helping burglars.

The ideal approach to gamification would be to appreciate why you might need it, as if you have to give people badges and experience points to use your app, it might be worth considering that the app by itself lacks incentives for extended or regular use. Perhaps the best approach for all of these gamified apps appearing on the marketplace would be for us to only opt for those what would be great to start with, rather than ones where we’re paying for an app, just for mechanics that exist in a thousand other ones.

Gartner, the information technology research and advisory firm, recently published a report stating that gamified apps are going to fail 80% of the time if your reason for involving game mechanics in your software is purely due to novelty and hype. If all of those badges and points have no real meaning or use, then you’re just adding noise to a quiet room. These are wise words, and it’s definitely something to consider as a consumer – if you’re paying for apps, try and opt for the ones where gamification is used intelligently and really rewards you – don’t be fooled by shiny stickers.

 

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