Skinner's experiments in the 1940s and 1950s showed that if you want to get a rat hooked to pressing a lever the best way is to make the number of times it has to press a lever before receiving a pellet random rather than fixed - a technique known to psychologists as a variable schedule of rewards. Game designers are well aware of this and design in uncertainty to help make their products compulsive. So what's to stop those making gamified applications doing the same thing to encourage addictive behaviours which they wish to promote, critics ask.
"If we deliver undefined rewards of variable sizes at undefined intervals, people can become addicted," says Zichermann. "Could you design a gamification application that was purely about addiction and compulsion? Absolutely."
That's one of the main reasons he is pushing the industry to draw up a voluntary code of ethics which he hopes will state applications should not be designed to be addictive and that users must be told when a system they are using involves gamification. Only time will tell if it is adopted.
But in that spirit we would like to reassure you that no gamification was used in this article. But, if you are still reading, award yourself 100 points.