A recent conference gamified their exhibition hall where vendors set up tables to discuss their work and sell their books and other products. Participants received a grid identifying 16 tables in the hall. If they got a stamp from 10 of their 16 tables, they could enter to win an iPad.

The game ensured participants explored the full hall and visited tables they might otherwise skip.

At least, it was supposed to.

Gamification incents specific behaviors by tying them to challenges and rewards. Gamification differs from games because the objective is those behaviors, rather than collecting the rewards. Sometimes, though, the game takes over.

I love browsing the books in exhibition halls, but I skipped past all of them in favor of collecting my stamps. I played the game, but I did not engage with the hall.

Was the problem the game’s design or me? A bit of both.

The grid only required that I locate tables, not that I spend time at each. However, I chose to focus on the game rather than the hall. I knowingly followed the rules while ignoring the (unstated) true objective.

The conference could have designed the gamification better, but I could have also been a better player.

So here are a couple questions and a challenge for you to tackle in the comments:

(1) How can we suss out the real objective of gamified systems? What do you think the true objectives of the Nitro system in the Engage Community are?

(2) How could I have been a better player in the exhibition hall?

And the challenge:

Describe how the conference could have designed the gamification for the exhibition hall better.