Apr 2, 2022

6 myths about gamification
Omer Paz

6 min read

Gamification, debunking myths by Omer Paz

In my previous article Gamification, Debunking Myths I write about the history of games, what gamification means, and the "Player-Center Design" methodology by Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger.

Beside the believes and stigma that still exist about games, the untrust it may cause to our clients when we talk about gamification, this article will show you some debunking myths.


1. Playing is for kids, not adults.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) made a survey in 2012 where they showed that the average age for videogame users is 20 years of age, and they have played videogames for the past 12 years of their lives.

70% of players are 18 years or older, meaning that teenagers and kids are, in fact, the minority of players.

It’s important to take into consideration that this was during 2012, and we now have a whole new generation of people who grew up with a video game console or other digital products at home, interacting with a screen since day one. Nowadays there are different platforms that center in the monetization of videogames, such as E-games, Streaming or NFT’s.

W. Edward Demings quote about data

2. Games are for men, only.
According to the same survey carried out by ESA, this is false, confirming that 38% of players are women. The fundamental difference is that women tend to play more social centered games, like The Sims or Candy Crush, while “First Person Shooting” games are still dominated by male players. However, that number keeps increasing each year for female players.

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Photo by Joel Stylis on Unsplash

3. Games are games and work is work.
What image comes to mind when someone considers themselves a gamer or a videogame fan?.

Author Jane McGonigal has spoken about this in her books “Reality is Broken” and “Why Games make us better and how they can change the world”. She explains how World of Warcraft users spend around 22 hours a week playing the game. If that isn’t dedication then, tell me what is?! This means gamers are actually highly competitive and motivated people. The secret in gamification is to use this motivation for problem solving.

There is an ongoing stereotype that gamers are lazy people who can’t keep a job. This stereotype is far from true, since gamers have proven to be highly motivated people.

Let’s see an example: The University of Washington had spent 10 years trying to solve a problem relating to protein folding in order to treat diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Seeing that they were taking too long to solve the problem, they decided to make a video game called “Foldit” and allowed the general public to fond proteins online in a puzzle format. 47.000 people joined the game and ended up solving the problem in a matter of 10 DAYS! Now, imagine how many situations could be solved by applying gamification methodologies in our lives and products.


4. You can’t learn by playing
I think this might be one of the most popular myths, it’s hardly even worth mentioning.

Gamification is the preferred methodology for training, as it increases the attractiveness of learning processes, innovation, fun, productivity, and the ability to retain concepts and acquisition of skills

It has proven to be extremely beneficial for learning purposes in humans, and there are many success stories, such as Kahoot!, Educational Minecraft, Brainscape, etc. All these learning apps and games have showed to be successful at a global and commercial level.

Photo by Toby56 on Unsplash

As of today, Duolingo is used by 100,000 teachers and has 42 million monthly active users and 500 million downloads since 2013.


5. Nobody has time for games

Your life has already been gamified; you just don't realize yet. You go around being the number one player in your life, and every aspect of it is, to a certain point, gamified.

You don’t think so? Well, let's go through a normal day for an average person:Let’s say Juan wakes up around 7AM and goes out for a run. Once he’s done, he checks his Apple Watch to review his performance during the workout, he looks at his metrics to see if he met his daily goal, and keeps on with his day. At around 9 AM he checks his Google Calendar or Asana, or whichever task management tool of his preference, to view his to-do list, statuses, and other pending progress. During his lunch break, he checks his LinkedIn profile, in which the app suggests filling in all his data with the promise of giving his profile more views. Once his info is filled in, the progress bar shows itself complete. When Juan’s working day is almost over, he goes on to Tinder to find a date. The app has a very fun and interactive way of viewing other people’s profile, with features such as “Choose the best and worst compliment someone has given you”, or other simple rules like “Swipe right to match!” or “Left to pass the profile”. Finally, before going to bed, he decides to buy some new sneakers in Amazon to make good use of his Amazon points which he had accumulated and are about to expire.

What do all these apps have in common?
Not only do we use these platforms on a daily basis, but they also all have mechanical and basic elements of a game. Here’s when the science of programing meets the art of Game Design. Game mechanics are basically used to attract the users best interest according to the business objectives. Some of these mechanics are: Leaderboards, journey, quests, progression, badges, rewards, narrative, levels, challenge, countdowns, Discovery, points, achievements, emotions, just to name a few.

There are so many more, the trick is to choose the right ones to get the best out of the user’s motivation.

6. Playing is not a business
If at this point you still believe playing isn’t a serious subject, I suggest you read it all over again. The number of examples where gamification helps solve different types of problems are so many, they go from generating engagement with the user, to creating communities, having better business experiences, creating disruption, providing education, and even implementing extremely important scientific advances.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Why do we play then?
Well, I’ll just close this with a phrase that I love by George Mallory, an English professional climber who was asked “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” with which he answered, “Because it’s there”.

Humans can’t resist a challenge; it is somehow engraved in our DNA and is what keeps us going⁠ — That is the essence of humanity.


Sources: Janaki Mythily Kumar and Mario Herger, Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software,
Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World, Vintage, 5th April, 2012, ISBN-10: 0099540282


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