Every few months I read another article on why gamification is the new tool to achieve success. Sometimes it’s a social media dashboard that promises to make engaging with your network fun and easy. Or a smartphone app for creating better habits that will give you medals and awards for exercise or some other personal development goal. But they all claim to tap into the same psychology that makes video games so addictive and use that power for professional and personal change.
But I’m not sold.
Like many of my friends who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I’m a bit of video game nerd. OK, I’m a big video game nerd. From late-night Tetris binges on my old Nintendo to marathon urban planning sessions with SimCity in college, it’s easy to get me hooked on a good game. I’m not quite as obsessive as I once was, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent too much time playing Destiny on my Xbox the past few months (along with the approximately 3.2 million people who play it on a daily basis).
We all have our ways to blowing off a little steam and taking a break from the pressures of real life. Some people like sports, others prefer TV, I just happen to prefer blowing up aliens on other planets. And so when the gamification people talk about using the same psychological triggers that games use to encourage engagement online and in business, I get it. I’ve spent a lot time trying to solve puzzles, complete quests, and complete bounties.
Here’s the problem that creeps in when we talk about “gamify-ing” our business activities, whether online or in the real world. Life isn’t as simple as a video game; games don’t have the complexity or variability that fills up our world. That’s why I enjoy sitting down play to Destiny or the latest game du jour. The goals are mapped for you, the steps in the process are linearly laid out, and your progress is quantifiable. If you want to attain the next level or accomplish a specific achievement, you know exactly what to do. It may be a challenge (one of the reasons we play games is because of the challenge) but it’s not a mystery. I think it’s the same reason people like sports – the parameters for success are relatively simple.
In the real world, though, I have yet to meet someone and have them introduce themselves as a “Level 18 Entrepreneur” or “Level 26 Salesman”. Life is so rich and complex that even trying to simply describe your goals at any given time is an exercise in futility. Trying to gauge and share your success up to this point is equally impossible.
I’m putting together the marketing plan for my new book, and most of the challenge isn’t in the execution, but in deciding what activities I should actually be pursuing. There are an almost infinite number of ways to approach the process. Even the “experts” have different approaches; and their conflicting ideas mean they don’t even know for sure – it’s their best guess. And that’s for a reasonably “bounded” process like releasing a book. Can you imagine the complexity of starting a business, creating a brand, or developing your professional acumen?
And so yes, trying to gamify our professional life seems like a good idea. And if all you are trying to do is create some level of activity, then by all means, dive in. If you want to encourage other people (or yourself) to fill out their profiles online, call their prospects, or complete tasks on their “to-do” list, then giving them points or medals is fine. But it will take a lot more than that to be successful. The world is complex, don’t get trapped in looking for simple solutions.
And while you figure that out, I’m going to spend a few minutes pursing my “Destiny” in the stars…
This article originally appeared at Business2Community.com. You can find it here.