Many studies, one of them being Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, underline that play is voluntary. Others, like Chris Crawford for example, add that play has no real-life consequences. It seems like gamification forces us to re-consider these qualities of play (if not violating them).
There are at least two issues in this, and they also require us to ask questions in regard to power-relations:
The first question is about the social relations that are made subject to gamification. Are these relations of a voluntary nature? Or are they the result of power-relations? If the latter one is the case, it should be questioned who benefits from gamification and whether it is not just another Management Information System. This seems to be a point that is also related to the “games have no real consequences” aspect.
Which brings us to the second point. What if I don’t want to be gamified? What if I’m not volunteering to enter the proposed game contract? How can I protect myself from gamification? Doesn’t everyone have the right to not being gamified? In other words, can I quit the game when I want? When I don’t like it? When I think it’s not fun, or silly, or bad designed? Or should I pretend that there is a magic circle where I can’t see one?
I do sometimes think that ideas about gamification border at totalitarianism. Remember what Roland Barthes said about Fascism?: “One of the wrong convictions about fascism is that people think it is a system that forbids indiviuals to speak. To the opposite, it forces individuals to speak.”
Play the game. And say you have fun.