The Neo Moment – when the gamification penny drops

I don’t know about you but I’ve been noticing a distinct “penny dropping” moment when training someone in gamification, mainly in my own tool, Leaderboarded.

It comes with the realisation that gamification is a tool to direct the behaviour of the crowd and that the power of direction (setting the goals, objectives, points, currencies, rewards, badges and so on) lies with you, the gamifier.

I think this moment of truth needs it’s own name, so I’d like to humbly suggest calling it “The Neo Moment” – it’s named after the character in the film, The Matrix, who after being resurrected, has a moment where he says no, no to the Matrix agents who are bent on controlling him. Instead he sees the matrix as it truly is, a generated world made up of numbers and algorithms.  He is able to flex the matrix and bend it’s rules to his own needs, in this case stopping a hail of bullets dead in their tracks.

For people learning gamification, there is a similar light bulb moment. It is when you realise that it is you who controls the game – whether that’s giving points for one behaviour or badges for particular achievements, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that you have decided what the game is, what are the rules and, effectively, what are the behaviours players will need to adopt to win.

So there we have it, The Neo Moment,  do you like it? Perhaps it could catch on?

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 Gamfed.com - 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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  • Kathy Sierra

    The “Neo Moment” is a perfect description for the moment a participant in a gamified experience wakes up to the realization that they are being controlled by a carefully-tuned, operant conditioning dopamine/reward system. In other words, it is indeed a perfect metaphor, but not for the gamifier but the human whose behavior is, as you put it, being controlled by the gamified system.

    Operant Conditioning produces behaviors that are outside some of our voluntary control because it triggers psychological processes beyond our conscious awareness. Worse, it gets people to believe the behaviors ARE voluntary when — as with the extreme end of the continuum where you have addictions — they are not entirely voluntary. After all, that is largely the point of much that is gamified: to “drive behavior” that people would not otherwise have done.

  • Kathy that’s brilliant! Yes the Neo Moment is two way – for both the gamifier and the gamified.

    I’ll have a proper think about your involuntary control point though I don’t believe gamification is quite such a dark art as you suggest – many of our favorite pastimes and existing work practices are already gamified (The Football League, UNDP Development Index, Millenium Development Goals, Sales Bonuses). There is a difference I think, in terms of maturity – gamified people and organisations do start as novices in the game. This is when they are perhaps most vulnerable. Yet, over time, they can and should move to a place of expertise where, I hope, they use the gamified feedback as an aid to personal performance optimisation, rather than something that continues to distort their behavior in an unwanted fashion.

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