Not Everything Needs To Be A Game

There’s a theory that gamification makes any application better. Use game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts and bump up all user retention metrics. I’m here to say that it isn’t always necessary.

Fancy food photo to illustrate the dining angle: scallop with roe, avocado puree and finger lime served at Lazy Bear, SF.

Fancy food photo to illustrate the dining angle: scallop with roe, avocado puree and finger lime served at Lazy Bear, SF.

My example: OpenTable, a really good service that takes the hassle out of restaurant reservations. OpenTable already offers:

1. The ability to query the restaurant’s reservation for a certain time, date and party size.

2. The ability to look at alternative dates and times for a specific restaurant.

3. The ability to look at all available reservations in a city for a specific time and date.

4. The ability to query OpenTable directly from my Yelp account. I’m already there looking at reviews, allowing me to make a reservation right there makes perfect sense.

And best of all:

5. The ability to book that reservation.

So why, after my last reservation (via Yelp) did OpenTable offer me the ability to “start earning points?” I’m not looking to earn points, I’m looking for the easiest way to get a dinner reservation. There’s no need to give me points as my “reward” was having my reservation honored. Gamification doesn’t even seem necessary to punish those who have stood up several reservations. All OpenTable has to do is to block this user from making future reservations.

So is there any reason for gamification when you already have a great product? Not in this case.

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