I’ve been spending a portion of the week at the Casual Connect conference in downtown Seattle, a three-day extravaganza which highlights everything you could possibly imagine about the casual games business. This year, one of the hot topics of discussion has been “gamification,” the concept of rewarding users with virtual coins, badges or more for participating in online communities.
Nearly everywhere I go, the buzzword pops up. And, it is worth noting, not always in a positive way.
PopCap CEO Dave Roberts kicked off his keynote address on Tuesday with 10 things he hates about the casual games business.
The #1 item on his list?
You guessed it: Gamification.
On Wednesday, at a press event, PopCap co-founder Jason Kapalka elaborated on Roberts’ remarks, telling GeekWire that he doesn’t have a problem with the concept of gamification.
In fact, he said rewarding customers has been around for a longtime, stretching back to the frequent flyer programs which are still very much in existence today.
What Kapalka can’t stand about gamification is the name. After all, he holds games as sacred products.
Creating a term like gamification does more to harm to the business because it actually dilutes down what a game means. And, in his view, a game has one simple goal: to be fun.
Foursquare and other similar services might be popular (and even useful for some), but they aren’t necessarily games, he said.
The term certainly has come on strong in the past 12 months. Scott Dodson, chief operating officer at Bobber Interactive, a Seattle company that brings game mechanics to personal finance, recalls doing a Web search for the term about two years ago. Google returned just four results, he said.
Now, according to a recent search, there are about 1.6 million results.
At this year’s Casual Connect conference there’s no shortage of panels about the concept: “Smart Gamification: Seven Core Concepts for Creating Compelling Experiences:” or “Gamification for Everyone: What’s your Strategy?” or “Gamification and Social TV: The New Way to Watch.”
The term has gotten such a bad rap that venture capitalist Tim Chang — an investor in Badgeville — called gamification the “dreaded G word” during his talk on Wednesday.
I thought I had actually escaped the gamification concept when I cut out of the conference on to do some work at a Starbucks.
Some folks from the conference sat down at the table behind me and started talking about their new service. And what was it about?
That’s right: Gamification.
Previously on GeekWire: “Keith Smith, BigDoor CEO, on the economics and future of gamification”