It sounds like a problem a certain Vladimir Lenin was facing in 1917: How do we motivate workers, without resorting to paying them based on their work?
Part of his answer was a theory of “socialist competition”, in which factories and individuals were to compete against each other within systems that bear greater or lesser resemblance to game mechanics, and success at the game is symbolically rewarded. A factory might be awarded points for its performance, and win commendations as it surpasses various point thresholds. Teams building a bridge could compete to see which side progresses fastest. Borrowing a symbolic-motivation strategy long used by armies, particularly productive factories or workers might be awarded a medal like the “Order of the Red Banner of Labor”.
Here you might object: yes, bad gamification can be like that, but good gamification is about user engagement, not just about setting up a sham market, where we’ve replaced the real money with shiny badges and hope nobody notices.
And, indeed, that was an objection levied at socialist competition as well.
Very good read. The Stakhanovite aspects of ‘gamification’ need a bit more consideration I think.