Foursquare is about getting points for grabbing dinner, not enjoying the food. Nike+ puts the emphasis on a leader board, not a leaner you. And now Badgeville wants to turn the entire internet into a game. This is really awful.
Gameification is a stupid made up word that describes an even stupider trend. It's simple: instead of doing something for its own sake, you're tempted with arbitrary, worthless arcade-y rewards. I get a badge on Foursquare for going to a bar. A little cluster of pixels. Your friends see the badge. They gaze at my pixels. My brain releases a small dosage of some chemical that makes me glimmer on the inside -- I've been acknowledged! I've accomplished something! Except all that I've accomplished is going to a bar -- something millions of people are doing constantly, and I would have done sans Foursquare. So why should I care?
We've been conditioned to care about little blooping tokens and validating gewgaws throughout our entire lives. Video games give us badges and trophies and points as a way of quantifying our fake experiences -- and it's a lot of fun! But when you clamp this metric onto the fleshy real world, it loses its purpose. Why do I need points for something that should be fun or worthwhile anyway? Isn't that what, oh I don't know, human existence is for?
Badgeville wants to take this same instinct -- the Pavlovian badge orgasm pioneered by Foursquare -- and take it online, too. Why? To make a lot of money. Here's a graphic directly from Badgeville, illustrating their gamification (ugh) platform. See that dollar sign? That's them making money. See that stupid virtual trophy? That's something they care about. I don't know what the hell all those gears mean. Probably nothing.
The company believes that slathering "rewards" and "levels" over things like shopping and talking online will make you more like to do more of it. We're addicts for points and prizes and levelling up accounts that mean nothing outside of our fabricated game world, they think -- and maybe they're right. So if I can score while I shop, maybe I'll shop even more! That's the hope. But that's gross -- and insulting. If we buy things, let it be because we want something, not because we're nibbling pointless scoreboard opiates that boost an ego we don't need. Whether it's the internet or the dive bar, activities should be their own reward -- if not, why the hell am I doing it to begin with? [Badgeville via GigaOM]