Overkill: adding game mechanics to games?

Guide for Chunk Fest 2011.

Over the weekend I checked out Chunkfest, an annual event held in Singapore and organised by ice-cream giant Ben and Jerry’s. Besides getting to taste 11 exclusive flavours that are flown in especially for the event, one also had the opportunity to compete in carnival games to win prizes.

But upon receiving the festival guide I soon realised that event organizers had gamified the event. Festival goers were encouraged to complete activities, collect achievements and unlock rewards.

I appreciate that adding an overall game layer to the event was an attempt to encourage festival participants to purchase and spend more Fair Coins (plastic tokens bought with real money to be used solely at the event) but it just seemed like overkill. I mean, carnival games are already fun in and of themselves. When someone has been dunked and soaking wet, give them a prize already!

Brands are gaining awareness about gamification but in the rush to jump on the social gaming bandwagon, there is a great risk of overusing basic mechanics (points, rewards, badges, achievements) and diluting their meaning. If brands are simply interested in quick-fix gamification, users will soon suffer from points fatigue, if they aren’t already. Good gamification is about creating user experiences that are relevant, rewarding and memorable. It’s not an easy thing to design but infinitely more rewarding for users and brands alike.

2 thoughts on “Overkill: adding game mechanics to games?

  1. I went to the Klondike Gold Rush museum in Seattle and, in a way, they implemented this. After reading a certain article or exhibit you got to emboss a sheet, or spin a wheel and write your score. I assume this was incentive to make sure the kids ‘completed’ the museum like they would a computer game. The completing of the museum activity sheet was the achievement.

    Maybe for education this would be effective because it added achievement to something that kids would normally think was boring. It game them an opportunity to compete as well.

    Whaddya rekon?

  2. Thanks Graham. I have also noticed that museums and art galleries like Tate Modern in London and the Art Science Museum in Singapore are incorporating more child-friendly elements into their exhibits such as factoids, posing thoughtful questions and hands-on experiences. These often appeal to adults as well as children! But activity sheets remind me too much of school-organised visits from my own childhood where compulsory completion often translated into a very linear and restrictive experience. A way to make museums and galleries more tangible to children could be to create a quest composed of several missions that requires a much deeper and more meaningful interrogation of available information rather than just completing activities as a tick-the-box exercise. Children love stories and role playing, and I think the gold rush would provide a lot of exciting scenarios! Incorporating game elements is an excellent way of presenting the same information in a more dynamic and personal context. Hope you enjoy the rest of your visit in Seattle :)

    Have any other readers seen examples of game elements being used in museums or art galleries?

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