Robrecht Jurriaans at Perceptum recently posted an interesting piece on what he calls the "third wave" of gamification. He normatively refers to pointsification as the first wave and using game elements as design lenses to engage and immerse users as the second wave. I can't agree more with this description.
But his third wave, which he calls "gameless design" strays a little from reality. The idea has some logic to it. Instead of implementing game elements/mechanics/dynamics to engage and immerse (i.e. the second wave), he wants to give them a platform to create their own. The ultimate autonomy (one of the primary motivations we leverage in gamification).
But the challenge is competence (one of the other primary motivations). Are users going to take the time and/or have the expertise to create their own? Do they even know what an effect game element looks like or how it should work? He thinks it would emerge naturally from their intrinsic motivation profile. If a user has a need for competition, she would design precisely the competition that pushes her buttons. But having a desire for competition is very different from being able to design a competition. And understanding how the dynamics of a competition should work to engage an activity loop is well beyond what the typical user knows and probably more effort than they are willing to expend. After all, this is just germane load to the underlying system (e.g. learning something) that is being gamified.
So I like the concept and respect the intention to give users so much autonomy. But I just don't think it is feasible. Do you? Could it work?