Ian Bogost, at the “Wharton Gamification Symposium”:
More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.
For those unfamiliar with “gamification,” it means taking an online service and slapping game-like elements onto it in an effort to make the service more sticky—the idea is that people will go back to your service over and over so they can get (largely meaningless) awards. Foursquare’s central conceit of “checking in” to locations you visit for points and achievement badges, is largely to blame for this, yet I don’t think one can accuse Foursquare of gamifying their service: that is their service. Yelp and Google+ and Facebook added check-ins because Foursquare was doing it. That’s gamification.
As “social game entrepreneur” (sigh) Jon Radoff points out, though, the core of what Bogost is railing against is behaviorism—stripping away all the elements of play and leaving just a “press button for points” mechanic isn’t really a game at all. It’s a Skinner box. I think it should be quite possible to make a social location-based game that isn’t a Skinner box, but it’s going to require more than just adding a “check in here for points” button to your mobile app. (And seriously, that ship may have already sailed.)