Gamification existed before Foursquare. The location-aware software did popularize it. Other companies rushed to add some form of gamification. The concept has become so rooted in mobile technology that conferences now exist to preach the gospel to the true believers, and nonbelievers alike. Ian Bogost calls bullshit on the concept because the action does not approximate a game. The bullshit quote:
Gamification is easy. It offers simple, repeatable approaches in which benefit, honor, and aesthetics are less important than facility. For the consultants and the startups, that means selling the same bullshit in book, workshop, platform, or API form over and over again, at limited incremental cost. It ticks a box. Social media strategy? Check. Games strategy? Check.
Bogost does not quite far enough. Gamification serves as a form of extrinsic motivation. It exists because the user does not care enough about the program. No one would use Foursquare if were not for the badges. Gamification masks that the core service provides zero value to the user. Without value, monetization remains so far in the horizon as to appear more mirage than real. Hence, the real bullshit is not just gamification but the service that nominally rewards user for performing a specific behavior.