I heard Gabe Zicherman present on the Gamification of Marketing yesterday. It really woke me up! Here’s Gabe giving a similar talk. It’s long, but worth it:
Gabe’s is a very astute analysis of how games will and already have influenced marketing and loyalty landscape, from S&H Green Stamps in the 1950s through Foursquare. Yes, each is just a game.
His excitement about the possibilities of using games for engagement and how they will transform how we all market whatever it is we’re trying to market, is palpable. He also made it a point to remind us “the house always wins.”
Cool. So what’s the problem?
I’m torn. It’s exciting to see such a powerful tool and imagine the types of game experiences that could generate user delight in service of achieving a marketing or informational goal. And it’s pretty inevitable that I’ll use a game-based technique sometime in the future.
BUT, from an ethical perspective, I’m uncomfortable with what games as marketing represents: manipulation in a very insidious form. Games are a format that some will no doubt, cynically use to encourage (lull?) the participant into doing something that is not in her/his best interest. It’s capitalizing on what makes state lotteries and slot machines so deadly and extending it into a more universal practice.
Whether or not I’m comfortable with the bigger implication, I’ll make sure to understand how games should be done right. This train has already left the station.
But it begs the question of ethics in marketing and the ethics of games in particular. Does the end justify the means? Where do you stand?