The Implications of Keeping Score

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My S in my A to Z of Gamification is for ‘Points’. Hang on, wait…

O.k. The S is really for ‘Score’, but this will form a series of posts about 3 closely related areas under the banner of points in games. It differentiates between the points that are are for keeping scoring,  to experience points (XP) and the accumulation of points that are part of virtual economies.

Each of these, I hope to show, create different types of gameplay which can be used individually or in combination to create very different game experiences.

Let’s start with the act of scoring.

If winning isn’t everything, then why do they keep score

Vince Lombardi, Coach

Scoring points in a game is about creating a way to identify a winner, either as a single crowned victor or some relative ranking. I define scores, as points used in games to support competition and comparison.

Even when there isn’t another competitor you might be playing against, the concept of beating your own score is simply provoking the competitive streak with yourself. Whether its your latest high-score in a video game or your handicap in golf.

How about a golfing video game

When putting a score into a non-game context through gamification design it signals to people that some sort of comparison is being made between them and others, or their current state, which needs to be improved upon. So gamifying by adding a score to some scenarios where comparison or competition is frowned upon is going to result in bad gamification.

Imagine, for example giving your friends each a friendliness score – Artie gets 41, but Alice’s in the lead with 49. Guess she wins that better birthday present then. Or how about rating your partner’s performance in bed, 7/10 this week? Now, maybe we all do a bit of this in our heads in the delicate subtle art of managing our relationships, but stick a big or not so big score on it and this fundamentally changes our perception of the thing being scored.

As far fetched as these may seem, there are aspects of scoring creeping into our lives, including measuring the social aspects of our online lives. Platforms such as Klout, attempt to put a score on your influence and was recently purchased for $200M. Klout and platforms like it have created controversy for the way people react to being given a social score, some choosing to ‘game’ the system whilst others feeling an uneasiness that it ultimately turns our interactions seemingly ‘less human‘.

Here’s a great article that covers some of the challenges and implications of keeping score.

When online influence becomes something that can be quantified, boiled down to a two digit number like a Klout score, it inevitably turns into a double-edged sword.

The Verge, 8-Oct-2012 Your Klout Score must be greater than 35 to read this

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