This year alone, gamification platforms have raised over $30 million in funding and hundreds of startups with game mechanics at their very core launch almost every week
Gamification is a polarizing and divisive topic with many proponents and vocal skeptics and cynics. But it is not bullshit. Gamification is real and its benefits are tangible. Gamification is here to stay.
Some say that gamification is a "perversion" of games, their mechanics twisted into a magical marketing pill for big, evil corporations. This overlooks all the good that gamification does, and has the potential to do more of -- while conveniently ignoring that the critics themselves work for giant corporate interests of their own.
But even as we acknowledge that some corporations might have nefarious interests, we must recognize that the fundamental purpose of all organizations is to create as much value as possible. This value may be measured in assets or lives saved, children made healthier or kilos of trash diverted from landfill. Regardless, there is no evidence that any of the passionate designers using gamification have ill intentions, but a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Is there truly deceit in gamification's fundamental nature, as some claim? Let's take Nike+ as an example. In Nike+, players are provided with clearly disclosed encouragement to improve their physical fitness using a gamified system. And while Nike would like for you to buy more shoes, they don't trick you into doing so by any other method than wearing them out from exercise. Conversely, advocates of persuasive games tend to bury their real message without full disclosure (see Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker or Dean for America as examples). By comparison, which application is more deceitful? The one trying to get you to vote for a candidate you might not like or one designed to help you get healthier. The question is really more subtle -- hinging on issues of truth, disclosure and self-determination rather than who designed the product and what it's advocating.