Melinda Jacobs

Melinda Jacobs is a gamification expert, tech entrepreneur and N7 paragon. She's a geeky nerd who found a way to combine her love of games and her fascination with people's behavior into an award-winning expertise. As the founder of the digital experience agency Subatomic, she’s helped companies and organizations develop interactive experiences that change behavior through play, games, and gamification for over 10 years. Her current role is as a founder and co-CEO of Perkio where she's on a mission to improve wellbeing in organizations through gamification and data science. She routinely gives talks around the world on playful design, behavioral science, and technology ethics.

Are We Gaming the System?: Gamification & Ethics

Gamification is often seen as a quick win, a silver bullet. It's treated as if there is an inherent *magic* and *power* to game mechanics that, when implemented, act as human cheat codes that allow us to motivate (or manipulate) people. In this talk today, I want to show you why this understanding of gamification presents the greatest risk to ethical design. It's true, with great power comes great responsibility, but in order to be responsible we have to understand where our power actually lies. When we look at mechanics, like a leaderboard, alone as holding the power, we miss the true source, our intentions. This is why ethical gamification comes down to system design. It starts with being honest about (and aware of) your intended purpose and the values you hold. Understanding how this relates to the set of elements you then choose to fulfil that purpose and represent your values is key; not only to ethical design but to *effective* design. I'll show you why 1. system design doesn't have to be scary, 2. how to get started with understanding your system(s), and 3. how to look deeper at 3 key aspects to consider that will keep your gamified system ethical: accountability, transparency, and autonomy. We will explore the danger of designing for *untethered metrics* like daily engagement and why *fun* isn't a value proposition on its own.

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