I’ve come across a couple comments from staff in blogs / the forum where there is vague criticism of the idea of gamification. But nowhere do I seem to find an actual justification or discussion on a philosophical or practical level as to why this is… Is that post hiding out there somewhere?
Good question! I think you’e right, we’ve just vaguely disparaged it – like in an old blog post where we praise a competitor for doing so – without ever making a solid case against it.
Want to debate it? Maybe this is the place!
I don’t know anything about it yet! I only learned it was an actual idea when I came across the term here. I thought it was interesting because when I was younger I had the idea of using role-playing character sheets as self-improvement tools. I was hoping, in turn, have an introduction to the debate here. I’m pretty new to these quantified ideas of self-improvement.
Thinking more, it’s not gamification that I object to. I like games. And Habitica is a shining example of brilliantly turning boring real-life things into a game to motivate you to stay on track with your goals. (I’d go so far as to say that some people may derive so much motivation from Habitica that Beeminder is superfluous for them. More commonly, though, Habitica and Beeminder work for different kinds of goals. And of course even when Habitica has you covered motivation-wise you may still want Beeminder’s graphs. I guess we’ve written all about how Beeminder and Habitica complement each other.)
So gamification done right is great. This forum software has much more mundane gamification – the kind that I’ve tended not to like – but I confess that it’s done very tastefully here. Like seeing that people have liked my posts here 1200 times is pretty gratifying, and my gallery of badges is pretty information-laden.
In conclusion, I’ve changed my mind! There was a time some 5-10 years ago when gamification was all trendy and overhyped and there were misguided attempts to bolt it on to existing web apps. But that was then.
I’m happy to come out as pro-gamification now.
So where are our badges?
And that said, where are our numbers?
I was thinking about this recently, and I’m still not sure Beeminder is the place to put gamification. But I think Beeminder can work well as a mechanism to enforce it (e.g. forcing you to play Habitica) or to reward it (e.g. you get to play a game with an output from Beeminder).
As an example, I would be much happier if Beeminder made IFTTT triggers for “safe days consumed by max safe days limit” or “goal is in green at end of day” than if they implemented a specific game-ify thing themselves. With such triggers I can power whatever games I want.
I’d like to explicitly second that final paragraph; I also love/am motivated by a dashboard that’s all happy colors, and having meta-goals would be super helpful and motivating in a lot of ways, but beeminder is SO much more useful when data input is automated.
For a few months, in fact, I had a meta-goal that was “safe days I manually ratcheted away”, which was quite nice – it let me feel a sense of accomplishment for getting “ahead” while still keeping the fire to my feet on my individual goals, but it was just too tedious to manually update, and once I got autoratcheting as a feature I couldn’t justify it.
I’m the other way around – lack of API/triggers for autoratchet is what makes autoratchet unattractive as a premium feature.
You’re baiting me, Danny! But I’m glad you’ve come around. Gamification is great.
I agree that most gamification setups have been meh. I’ve never found one I’m happy with and have always fallen back on creating my own because others didn’t motivate me at all, except out of their newness when I first tried them. (In the past, mine have always failed for me because they’re so hacked together that maintenance is unsustainable—I can’t code.)
I have so. many. thoughts. on how to implement gamification well, but I’m currently trying out a new version (have been using gamification on and off since 2012) and don’t want to spout off until I see how sustainable it is. So far it’s the most successful iteration, and I’m hoping to share it as soon as I have an easy-to-setup version. (The current one is… not.)
But I’ll definitely say that Beeminder is a great place to implement gamification systems. It works both as a place to collect relevant data for the game(s), and to collect all the bits and pieces from across platforms through ifttt and zapier, etc., but can also act as a also as a kind of “hit points” system, if you want it to (where the cost of getting down to 0 and losing is whatever your pledge is, and comes out of your rewards budget or something—I don’t use it for the latter at the moment, myself, but I used to in a previous iteration). It’s also a great place to share your progress with others or to compete with others who are doing something similar. There are innumerable ways to use Beeminder for gamification successfully.
I think that gamification could work well for Beeminder because users choose to use the service. The reason that video games/video game concepts can be so engrossing is that the player voluntarily opts into the game.
I agree with every single word you said. I have never found a gamification system that feels right, and I see a big potential for beeminder to integrate with such system.
Would you mind share with us what system that you think the best could be according to your past experience? Please ignore the easy or difficult to set up. That would be trivial to be fixed using python glue and API.
Gamification is enticing and it definitely works. Just look at stackoverflow.com. It changed the life quality of coders using gamification. It just needs the perfect system. Currently I believe any good idea would need some coding, and if I found the courage and the feel that the idea is really good, perhaps I can pour some energy to do a python code for that.
Gamification… Kinda never worked for me. Totally personal experience coming in and half-formed thoughts, so go easy on me please.
I loved the idea of Fitocracy. I’m a backer and was one of the “top contributors” to Habitica when it was still HabitRPG. Khan academy and its planets. Stackoverflow. Discourse.
I neither use Fitocracy, Habitica, nor Khan academy anymore. I use discourse and SO because they are good resources and the “gamification” gets out of the way.
I like Beeminder because it works best if it moves to the background.
When I’m heads down I don’t have time to follow the gamification lore, so it creates additional friction to get back into it when I fall off the bandwagon. Considering Beeminder doesn’t rely on streaks, it might be a bit better than Habitica for me, but in the end, I’m a Beeminder Poweruser because it’s more feature rich and automatable than polished.
The real problem with gamification (as with all operational / reinforcement learning) are the incentives.
Do we compare someone to the others? So that means the person willing to put the most money on the line gets the most shiny badges.
Do you compare them to their former selves? Does the shiny badge matter when chatting with others? “I got it for writing a word each day” vs “I got it for writing 1000 words a day”.
Do you reward streaks? What’s with people with depression or irregular schedules? Do you reward total logged points? How do you solve the input vs output discussion that flames up from time to time?
My problem with gamification is that it usually ends in “how do I fit my habits/goals into this game” rather than “how do I build sustainable systems that survive real life contact”. I’m happy that Beeminder is opinionated on the strategic level but gets out of the way on an operational level.
That being said I would not mind richer statistics and overviews sometimes. Honestly, they probably exist but I haven’t found them yet as it happens so often with Beeminder .
TL;DR: I always found gamification to be too arbitrary: the “points” and “levels” you get are arbitrary and don’t mean much, which is why I can’t get to care about them.
Ah, if only life were a RPG: you would get instant feedback as to how you’re progressing towards your skills and overall level. Work on 50 pages from a book on accounting, and your finance skill just leveled up! Neat.
What I don’t like about the gamification options that I’ve found is that the points, or levels, or whatever, are too arbitrary, but the problem is probably more fundamental because you can’t get any good input that isn’t arbitrary in the first place.
In RPGs you farm mobs to level up. You might know that a given mob gives around 100 EXP by definition. It’s 1% of what you need to get to the next level. If the bar says you’re 10% away from the next level, that’s objective truth. You farm 10 mobs and level up.
How do you do that with an accounting book? Suppose you’re leveling your “finance” skill - how do you know how much you progressed?
There are books that are good, books that are great and books that are really bad. You can’t just decide that a page is 1 experience point. Do you make a subjective decision every time you read a book and give more or less experience depending on how good the book is?
What about the level itself? Supposedly you add up all the stuff you’ve studied and your finance level is 13. Cool. What if you stop following financial news and stop reading books for a couple of years? You’ll get “rusty” and forget formulas you used to be able to recall.
RPGs usually have levels that require exponentially more experience. What if after reading 100 finance books you really don’t get much knowledge out of any new book you read? What if instead you get more and more out of each book, as you can use your background knowledge to process material more intuitively? How do you make a mapping between exp and level curve that accounts for that?
And we’re back to the TL;DR. If levels and points have no clear meaning, I end up not caring about them and giving up on the game.
But there is a category of things that could be gamified better in certain contexts, maybe, where my complaints don’t apply: things that you can actually measure more or less objectively.
Say you’re a programmer in a team, and you fix bugs once in a while. Well, why not set fixing a low priority bug as 5 EXP, a medium priority bug at 10 EXP, and an high priority bug at 30 EXP? Then let your level be floor(log_1.5(YourExp / 100)) or something like that. Maybe you could get EXP for reviewing and merging a PR? Maybe play a “ding” sound in the office when someone levels up and have a leaderboard? That’d be fun. Or maybe a disaster where your work environment becomes competitive instead of relaxed. Dunno.