Notes on badges

If you haven’t heard about Mozillas Open Badge Initiative, a great explanation and round up lives on Rowins blog. As Rowin points out that badges ‘draw upon widespread use of badges and achievements in gaming‘ and as somebody who has many badges and achievements in various game systems I can’t help but wonder if some of the problems that have cropped up in games might cross over into the Open Badge Initiative. Some early thoughts:

  • Nobody wants to complete a level using only a hyperblaster
  • Badly designed meta-goals can ruin an experience, some players will attempt to do all the tasks asked of them to get as many as the badges, achievements or points as possible. Is it fun completing any levels in quake 4 with only a hyperblaster? No, but it gets you a badge. Would learners do pointless tasks just to get badges, should we worry about loss of intrinsic motivation?

  • Bribery
  • Early in life a Microsoft console a game publisher realised it had a bad game on its hands. The answer to get gamers to part with their cash was to it would give them a full set of achievements in 3 minutes. Would users go for a product because it’s the quickest way to reach get a badge?

  • Badge Inflation
  • Achievements just aren’t enough anymore, as soon as games started giving out easy achievements gamers wanted more. How about a virtual hat? Now gamers are checking that their new game has extra avatar awards as well as achievements.

  • Bypassing the rewards system or creating a new one
  • What happens when developers read on a blog that bribery and badge inflation are a problem on your host platforms badge system. Some developers just create their own.

  • As punishment
  • Although now I like the term “useful indicator for characterizing an unknown” (see comments)

I think that badges are a really interesting idea. But maybe its worth thinking about other reward systems and the effects badges/achievements have had after implementation.