Gamification — or the use of game, loyalty and economic concepts to engage consumers and employees — has its fair share of detractors. Many of their criticisms dismiss gamification as a fad, criticize its use of game concepts, suggest its methods are shallow or believe its sole use is for marketing “evil.” More often than not critics trot out examples of gamification that “failed” without any facts beyond their own personal opinion of the design. Our industry embraces these dissenting voices more than most — we regularly invite skeptics to headline at GSummit, our industry’s main conference. However we believe good criticism should be grounded in facts and a shared desire to make the world a better place.

There have also been failures, to be sure. In many cases, the gamified approaches taken by companies at first haven’t been the right designs for their users. Although some abandon their gamification projects because of these setbacks (Google Reader), others are able to successfully iterate and eventually get it right through an agile process (Omnicare). In some cases, even weak gamification examples (Huffington Post) are able to substantially shift behavior and survive despite their detractors. As Founder of gamification platform Badgeville Kris Duggan said recently in an interview:

And here’s the rub — gamification is needed more than ever. We live in a world of increasing distraction and complexity, where organizations need to cut through the noise and users need systems that can help them achieve their full potential. Well done gamification has the power to accomplish that and more. Although detractors would like to ignore the fact that gamification works, to belittle its substantial accomplishments thus far, and to foretell a future in which game-like interactions lose their efficacy — their view is simply not supported by reality. And we contend that with an increasing number of case studies (including a wide catalogue of videos), the breadth and depth of gamification’s effect can no longer be ignored.

Perhaps this increased information will help convince some skeptics. And perhaps it won’t. One thing’s for certain however — the gamification industry isn’t standing still. Platform leaders Bunchball and Badgeville each more than doubled in size last year. At the same time, certified gamification designers and thousands of others are actively striving to make the world a more fun and engaging place by learning from the immense successes and humbling failures of our fledgeling community.