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.

5 thoughts on “Notes on badges

  1. At OpenEd11 this year, Peter Schmidt from P2PU reflected that ‘badges’ perhaps wasn’t the wisest choice of word and something more like- signals/ signifiers might have been better and avoided the gameification thing. Possibly true, but I can’t help wondering how some of the above critiques of badges might be applied to HE institutions…
    - Teaching to the test
    - Easy degree courses
    - Institutional facilities and ‘experience’
    - New institutions/ increase in studying abroad?
    There’s lots of practice within the HE sector which is potentially as questionable as badges if we subject them to the same level and type of analysis [not disagreeing with you but I was struck by how I could think of examples in HE].

  2. I agree, as I was writing these notes I thought about how much these things happen anyway but then again if the badges conversation made me think about them, then that was a good thing.

    I am particularly interested in inflation and HE. I’ll save that for another post but I guess badges as a sort of global currency has re-sparked my interest in it.

    Have you read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whuffie

  3. Perhaps symbolic, calibrated, standardized, automated, publishable, objective feedback on progress, achievement and activity would be a closer description?

    The badges in games such as City of Heroes were, as I recall, often milestones (or progress markers), which can be useful in a non-linear environment where exploration has a complex topography. Other badges summarized a recent behaviour pattern (perhaps acknowledging an online behaviour characterized as helpful – or otherwise – such as answering calls for help).

    Sure, the design of badges and the meaning of the metrics are at the heart of the matter, and they are not a replacement for subjective (human) feedback, but complementary to it.

    Generally, I expect you have to weight levels exponentially (such as bronze for 10 logins, silver for 100, gold for 1000 and so on) which creates a more meaningful break in levels.

    Where you are trying to reward people for creating content, and perhaps unlock higher level roles with increased permissions, then perhaps badges and their underlying records can play an important role. For example, you may restrict eligibility to moderate a list to people who have contributed 10 items to it (or whatever).

    A reputation badge can be seen as a useful indicator for characterizing an unknown person (for example, in XBox Live, apparently people who disconnect from FIFA football matches have their percentage reputation lowered to reflect probable bad sportsmanship and warn future opponents).

  4. Pingback: Badges | HAPGOOD

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