Friday, April 1, 2011


After watching the recent Extra Credits video, I decided that the danger might be bigger than I had thought. So I should add my part if fighting it.

The term itself is offensive.
If anything, it should be called achievementification. As it stands, gamification implies that games are about leaderboards, points and achievements. Here's a surprise: They are not. I agree that the skinner box is powerful. I see that it is behind the success of Diablo as well as World of Warcraft. But achievements, in any form, are like salt in the soup. Sure, it tastes better with it. But a good soup doesn't require salt to taste good. The term itself defines games as being about skinner boxes. I abhor this idea.

It doesn't work the way you think it does.
At first you might think that what is most important for a school kid is to exercise and spend time to be able to earn money later and make sure that your country is not taken over by the Chinese. ... Honestly, sometimes I feel like that is a credible fear to some people. At second thought, you will realize that reliable access to drugs works much better at keeping people happy. Yes it does! But life is not about trying to achieve and maintain a specific composition of chemicals in the brain, is it?

If you incentivise a human to do something, he will do exactly that and nothing else. Humans are really good at gaming systems and I guarantee you that any generation raised by such a dishonest and corrupting idea will revolt against it - after they gamed it to their assumed advantage.
Means: They will find a way to do the 25 math exercises without remembering them. Just like I don't remember a single thing from my diploma tests: Because at that time I couldn't care less about the real issues. I was busy trying to beat a system. Which taught me completely different things than intended.

More important than doing something is doing it for the right reasons. Once you are doing things for points and not for what they are really about, who stops you from doing *placeholder*?

Concluding, I have no doubt that achievementification will eventually fail. I am just concerned about how much damage it will have done when it finally does.


  1. I dunno how can you fight what is human nature, unless you change humans thats it . Go with the flow not against it . Skinner box work -use them.

  2. Skinner boxes work at making money. They are mostly useless and often dangerous to society when used on humans.

  3. This post is fantastic. Not enough people see things in this way. (although "gamification" can be a good thing if done properly)

  4. Nils, great post.

    I don't usually do "great post" comments, but sometimes it is important to do.


  5. They are mostly useless and often dangerous to society when used on humans.

    They can be used for all sort of things included but not limited to making money. If we talking about persistent MMO game you have to have them in one way or another .

    A large premise of cRPGs is to have leveling skinner boxes , modern implementation like farm-ville just do them better and explicitly are all about money

    You cant go on a crusade against what is one of the core mechanics of the game

  6. Max, yes I can.

    For most of human history games didn't require skinner boxes to be great. They don't require them now, either.

    That doesn't mean that you shouldn't allow for character progression in MMORPGs. There should always be something to do, of course. But the motivation doesn't necessarily has to be derived from trivial incentives. Let alone incentives that are incompatible with the simulation.

    Exploring and socializing are just as powerful as skinner boxes. In fact, they are better, because the players don't become addicted, but have fun.

    However, this is a little besides the point. I don't like achievements in games, but I don't really care. What I do care about is when people try to play me for a sucker. And giving me virtual points for something and comparing me with my friends to get my euros is the best way to make sure that I'd never touch your product again.