How to avoid pointsification by using fuzziness

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about this relationship between points and rewards within games, especially when applied outside games.

There have been warnings from many thought leaders to avoid simply adding points to anything – otherwise derided as “pointsification” – but how should we, novice gamifiers, proceed instead?

To help with this conundrum, I’d like to expand on the idea of fuzziness.

Let us take a simple matrix and have two axes – points and rewards. Then let’s grade each in terms of whether point or reward acquisition is “crisp” – you know exactly what you need to get what you want  or “fuzzy” – you’re not quite sure what you need to do.

Then we can classify out points and redemption system that we have designed according to where it sits on the matrix:

Matrix of point-reward exchange systems - rewards crisp and fuzzy, points crisp and fuzzy give transactional, negotiable, loyal and relational system types

Four Point-reward exchange systems

Crisp points collection and crisp reward redemption is a “transactional” system – this is what we are all most familiar with – we gain points (and we know how we do it) and directly exchange points for rewards. A trip to the grocers is clear – we take what we’ve earned (from the day job) in the form of cash and exchange it for clearly priced groceries.

If redemption were “fuzzy” – we didn’t know quite how many points equated to a certain reward we would enter into a “negotiable” system where we knew how we were doing in accumulating points but didn’t know exactly how many points we needed to exchange for our desired reward. This represents the behavior we might see in a market where buyers and sellers haggle to get the right price that most closely reflects supply and demand.

If, on the other hand, points collection was the fuzzy axis, we didn’t know quite what we were doing to achieve the points, we’d be in a “loyal” type  system. This is because all we know is that loyalty (and sticking with it) is all that we can do to get the rewards that we need.

I think many store “loyalty” cards and airmiles actually work like this – I’m only vaguely aware of how much I need to shop in order to get the points. I am much more aware of how many points are needed to be exchanged for a reward such as a flight to Paris.

Finally we have the top right corner of the matrix where both points collection and reward redemtion are fuzzy. I call this a “relational” system. This is because this reflects most accurately the type of points and rewards we see in our own relationships with each other – we’re not quite sure which things we do earn points, we’re not quite sure how those points are converted to rewards and when – but we intuitvely have a sense of it.

Economists see this non-cash barter behavior in an  informal economy, perhaps between farmers. Who is to say whether me lending you my 160 chickens pays you back for your loan of your field last year for my cows? Only the relationship between the two participants.

Well there you are, yet another gamification model to help us on our merry way. I think it needs a bit of tweaking but the core idea is ok.  Let me know what you think!



Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

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