by Richard Carey

The debate about the use of game mechanics in digital media — lately known as gamification — hardly started  before being overtaken by tools, workshops and service providers all too willing to use game techniques to tart up your latest digital masterpiece.

But many in the gaming world are complaining “Not so fast!” and The Great Gamification Debate slated for GDC this winter may be worth the price of admission alone So, is gamification a learning tool? Marketing gimmick? Gratuitous eye candy? In this post we’ll look at gamification and try to gain some perspective on what some say is gratuitious but others call an effective User Experience design.

Gamification is defined by Wikipedia as “the use of game mechanicsfor non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt [or] engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Early examples of gamifications are based on rewarding points to people who share experiences on location-based platforms such as Facebook‘s “Place” feature, FourSquare, andGowalla.”

There’s a gamification wiki and encyclopedia to guide the uninitiated, a gamification platform that purports to make it easy, the gamification blog and the gamification controversy, mentioned earlier, set to unfold at this winter’s Game Developer’s Conference.

Of course no meme would be complete without conferences, so there’s the (sold out)Gamification Conference coming to San Francisco next week (at this rate I’m expecting a scratch-and-win promotion the next time I buy a Metrocard for the New York City subway).

Here are a few other useful reference points:

Having been active in the serious games movement for more than five years now, the “gamification is good” vs. “gamification is evil” controversy feels manufactured. Serious games are, by definition, using game mechanics to lure/motivate/reward users for desired behaviors, so I assert that gamification is a useful tool which can be used to motivate some users, in some circumstances, by rewarding them for performance, achievement or other metrics appropriate to the intention of the application/service/product at hand.

Agree? Disagree? Need help gamifying your app? I’d love to hear your thoughts.