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When talking about gamification people's mind almost immediately go to points. It is probably the quintessential mechanic.

However, thinking of games, it's no longer heavily used. It's still in use but doesn't seem to be a main driver in most games. While people may have cared about high scores in Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, many modern games either don't use points at all or have them but players seem to not really pay too much attention to them.

Have their been any studies regarding the efficacy of using points in a gamified system or their performance against any alternatives?

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Have points gone away or have they been splintered into multiple specialized areas (so Levels of Proficiency, # of Battles and % wins, instead of one generic Points unit).? –  Clay Nichols Nov 6 '13 at 2:35
    
@ClayNichols Nice point. I'd say they have just gone away. These new specialised areas are such a different thing from the original "generic points" that I really can't put them in the same box. –  Lohoris Nov 14 '13 at 14:05
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6 Answers 6

Hmm. It's possibly I'm misunderstanding, in which case I will happily retract my answer. But does gamification really apply to, well, games? I thought the idea behind gamification was to take user engagement elements present in games and add them into non-gaming situations to increase user retention/satisfaction etc.

So I would say that if you're making a game, you're not using gamification. You're making a game, which inherently has some of these characteristics. After all it's called gamification because the concepts were borrowed from games, right?

That said, to answer your question, I think points are still valuable in games when they're used as currency. When you can use the points to get stuff, that adds a whole new level of value.

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Your second paragraph makes much sense! –  stonefruit Oct 28 '13 at 2:58
    
Sorry, I'm asking if points make sense in a gamified system, not in a game. I referenced games since that's where points come from and mostly to point out that most modern games don't use them anymore. –  Ryan Elkins Oct 28 '13 at 3:28
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The level of gamification in games has risen far beyond what we have applied in other real world situations, which is why gamification has such great potential. Much of the point systems have been masked by things like a superior avatar, indirectly showing your proficiency of the game.

To answer your questions, I am unsure of studies looking at points in a gamified system.

I am a healthcare professional and a major issue with health is compliance. Health and fitness apps like FitBit and Nike+ use points to a very great extent. I believe using a point system is the easiest way to gamify a system, even if it is for the short term, which might be enough to get someone jump started on being healthy in the long run.

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I disagree with the premise the question.

Some of the most popular casual games in the world use the classic points systems that have been used since the 90s. Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, Bejeweled, Subway Surfer are played by millions of players worldwide and they all use a classical points system. Also, many users regularly share their scores on social networking platforms and compare/compete with others. So, points systems are not on their way out as far as the non-hardcore gaming audience is concerned.

Secondly, game systems are far less prone to change than gamified systems. Stack Exchange gets updates and changes every few weeks. Games do not undergo significant changes for months or years. This means that points as a metric serves a very different role in gamified systems than in games.

In gamified systems, points can be a metric for various things ranging from participation, skill, engagement, quality of participation, social status, connections and more (discussed in Gamification By Design, Chapter 3). The same cannot be said for conventional modern games.

Third, one of the reasons for the success of gamified systems at present is the familiarity with game mechanics that the 80s and 90s generation had. To be specific, points systems, since they were the one consistent game mechanic in that era of games along with levels. This familiarity is what makes adoption of gamified systems easy for most audiences, and hence, they serve as more than just a performance metric.

Have their been any studies regarding the efficacies of points in a gamified system or their performance against any alternatives?

While there are implementations of systems that do not use points, there does not seem to be any research on the effectiveness of points systems as a whole.

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What is your high score in Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies? No one knows - they might know how many levels they still need to 3 star or what wave they have gotten to, respectively. While games still use points, they are rarely seen as a metric that drives performance in games anymore, and that was my point. –  Ryan Elkins Oct 28 '13 at 3:36
    
@RyanElkins One of the reasons for the success of gamified systems at present is the familiarity with game mechanics that the 80s and 90s generation had. To be specific, points systems, since they were the only comparable game mechanic in that era of games along with levels. This familiarity is what makes adoption of gamified systems easy for most audiences, and hence, they serve as more than just a performance metric. –  AsheeshR Oct 28 '13 at 3:41
    
@RyanElkins From the evidence that I see around me, points + social sharing are what drives most casual games and gamers to play. This might be a cultural difference since I see and hear about scores both on Facebook feeds and sometimes during commutes, which is when most people play such games. –  AsheeshR Oct 28 '13 at 3:46
    
I didn't even notice there were points neither in PvZ nor in Angry Birds... –  Lohoris Nov 14 '13 at 14:08
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Points are a method, and as with everything else in life, there are trends and differences of appeal/use for different populations.

Points provide a way to clarify value. And they are used to show relative importance between actions in a system.

As a method it's very effective: users can quickly compare assigned value to specific events, and then choose how they invest their time to get what they want.

If the point system becomes too complex, people can become disinterested: the effectiveness of representing value dissipates (people can't associate likely events with points). And maybe that's why it's trending down in some games right now, because the point systems aren't simplified enough.

A good comparison is between Mario points and SE points:

Assume that you get Mario points for ending a level quicker, jumping and hitting the end flag highest, and for killing each Oomba.

That's simple. You know that it rewards diligence and dexterity.

Now look at SE. How do people get points? The least random way seems to be up-votes. But I know that those votes can come from various people, some smart, some immoral, etc.

The system in Mario is much simpler than in SE.

Summary: points are a method; in principle it has value; must be applied correctly to avoid complexity that significantly diminishes the value.

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The only reason I'm answering this right now is for points. (oooh, so meta).

But seriously, StackExchange is built on the relevance of points. Most users would post some things even without points, but almost all of them answer quick and easy questions primarily for the points (whether they admit it or not). That is why the FGITW (fastest gun in the west) problem is such a problem on SO.

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I disagree with the Premise of the Question.

Points are essential for measurement - which is at the core of Gamification.

While Badges are simple YES or NO, Points give the ability to measure stuff at a continuum. Points also form the basis of Leader-boards, Levels, XP, etc...

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Leaderboards are metric based - points are only one possible metric. XP - experience points - ARE points. Levels are simply a delineation between point totals. Points are a commonly used mechanic but they are by no means essential for measurement. Gamification is far more than just points, badges, and levels. For example, we are running a large (5k employee) gamification system right now that doesn't use points at all. –  Ryan Elkins Nov 2 '13 at 21:34
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