So what does Gamification have to do with Dead Island? A lot. Dead Island is a video game that essentially destroys itself through the devices and enticements of Gamification. You might ask, “How can a video game be ruined by the kinds of systems video games are primarily responsible for unleashing upon the world?” I realize this sounds paradoxical. But consider this: World of Warcraft is, by any measure, the most popular video game in history. The game is systemically based upon three pillars: customization, randomness, and looting. The more you customize, the better you can control the randomness. The more you loot (and then customize), the better you can control the randomness. In WoW, every player runs around, randomly initiating encounters, the outcomes of which they have looted and customized to better control. All the while the WoW motherbrain is rolling its internal 20-sided die and determining the fates of its players. Millions of people consider this fun. I am not one of them, but I have played enough lower-octane RPGs to know that there is some enjoyment to be had in customizing a character to mitigate video-game randomness. The part of me that enjoys this is also a part of me for which I have no real use.
Of course, we have Dungeons & Dragons to thank for these fictional experiences overtly governed by statistics, in which you roll to see if you hit the Quickling, evade the whirlpool, slay the Boalisk. The 20-sided die was what enabled those who played Dungeons & Dragons to trust one another. Not even the Dungeon Master him- or herself [sic] was as unimpeachable as the good old D20. This unquestioned trust in the D20 was profound — and profoundly shaped what eventually became video-game design. What the D20 hath wrought is, I believe, a big part of what is ruining many video games.