Gamification is supposed to be fun. That’s why businesses, organizations and individuals use it on a daily basis. Why else would someone play games?
But what are the ethics of gamification? What stops one business or organization from doing something nefarious? Is there a limit to gamification? Should it be up to academics, the government, or individuals to police how gamification is used?
I imagine the Black Mirror episode Nosedive when I think about gamification ethics. In the episode, the character Lacie Pound played by Bryce Dallas Howard shows us a world where everyone is on a 5 point rating scale. 5 is the best that a person can be while 0 is, you know, the opposite.
People in this world are rated based on what they do, how they interact with each other, and how they contribute to the society. We see our character’s rating take a plunge (a nosedive) after a series of bad events that causes her to become a pariah.
While this is science fiction, it is not that far from reality. China recently implemented a social credit system which gamifies the interactions of citizens with the government, businesses, and each other. This system is eerily similar with the Black Mirror Nosedive episode… Except in this case: it IS reality.
That’s what lead me to this line of thinking: what is your motivation for creating gamification? For businesses it can be to engage more users to make more money. For others it’s to maintain a just society for greater good. For some, it can be simply to make life easier for all of us.
But the ‘why’ behind gamification is the most important question we can ask. That is more important than the who, what, when, or where. Asking ‘why’ is the most fundamental ethical question we can ask ourselves before putting gamification into practice