"degamification" as a design tactic

(Via Tom Ewing and metagaming) An intriguing question addressed on blackbeardblog:

"So presumably the removal of game mechanics from things which possess them might also have an effect on those things. And then I had to ask: would the effect of that removal – that degamification - always be undesirable? I think it wouldn’t.

Part of the reason I think this, I admit, is my own experiences playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop games in the 80s and 90s, when the more I immersed myself in the hobby the more I was drawn to rule-light or even rule-free systems. D&D has – as you’ll know if you ever played it – a vast and hydra-headed system of rules. At first we would modify them, as almost all players did – dropping the ones that weren’t fun. But eventually we abandoned the rules entirely, shifting to what used to be known as “freeform” gaming – something more like interactive storytelling.

The reason we did this is that we’d reframed the aim of the activity to be creative rather than simply competitive or even co-operative. Once we’d done that, the game mechanics became a hindrance to play, rather than a spur."

Why do I blog this? The idea of "degamification" as a design tactic is interesting and the author presents it in a compelling way. What I find important here is that the removal of certain external rewards can be relevant for participants over time, "handing over more responsibility and autonomy" as said in this blogpost.

For those wondering about how this "subtraction"-oriented design approach can be applied, the author also gives an example:

"Tumblarity – the short-lived popularity measure on Tumblr introduced back in 2009, which had the effect of radically jacking up engagement and activity but in directions Tumblr management allegedly didn’t expect or like. So they degamified the site, removing Tumblarity, and found that the popularity of their service continued to grow but that the artificial metric no longer distorted the content on it quite so much. The behaviour Tumblarity artificially encouraged - chasing popularity, content inflation, and so on - didn’t go away, but its levels stayed manageable. Degamification rewarded its creative users at the expense of its game-playing ones."