Robinhood is Eliminating Controversial Gamification Feature

Last Updated on April 11, 2021

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The ‘ease-of-access’ trading app, Robinhood, is making strides to eliminate the gamification features of their app, a center of controversy for the online investment brokerage.

Robinhood had a controversial start to 2021 and is just now making strides to remedy certain aspects of its wrongdoings, in an attempt to regain favor. The investment app was founded in 2013 as a financial services company that aims to bring the market to common, everyday folks who normally overlook trading as a source of income. Like the legend of Robinhood, the online brokerage with the same name intended to serve the poor, but many believe they have done the opposite. In fact, Robinhood cost many small investors a lot of money, as they restricted trades of GameStop, AMC Entertainment Holdings, and other stocks due to “recent volatility”, which resulted in massive losses for many people.

One of the biggest problems critics have is that Robinhood ‘gamifies’ trading, rewarding users with achievements and fun-looking confetti when they reach investing milestones. This kind of gamification can be a great way to get people to exercise or save money, but it is also a sneaky, psychological tool that makes investing a lot like gambling. According to Investopedia, “Robinhood makes investing exciting and, arguably, has some design elements that seem to be encouraging more rapid trading than a buy-and-hold approach.” This can lead to users making big investment decisions at the drop of a dime, forgetting the real risk involved with the market as the feeling replicates winning in a video game. This gamification has become the focus of critical scrutiny for Robinhood, and recent events have led them to make huge changes.

Despite being accused of ‘gamification’ by Massachusetts in December 2020, the company is only now rolling out important updates that limit the gamification in the app. According to KCTV5, Robinhood is getting rid of its most controversial features, in which confetti rains on the screen after ‘firsts’ for each trader. For example, when a user first deposits money or makes a trade, the app will reward the player with a fancy display as though they won something. The confetti imagery will be replaced with new graphical elements that are more sedate, so the psychological feeling isn’t as strong as it is currently.

The gamification can be a real problem, especially since the app is available for users 18 years or older, where fresh-out-of-high-school teens can dive into their savings and invest with the app, but still aren’t allowed to go to Las Vegas and gamble at the casinos. To many, the two are identical, as many claim Robinhood makes investment seem like a video game without any real risks. One traumatic incident may have lead a 20-year-old boy to commit suicide. Upon receiving an automated email that he owed nearly $200,000 after an options trade went bad, Alex Kearns committed suicide in an effort to protect his family from financial turmoil.

While Robinhood has denied a connection to the boy’s suicide attempt, Massachusetts officials believe that Robinhood’s gamification was a direct cause. Now, the app is looking to make big changes when it comes to its gamification, in hopes to regain favor and prevent further scrutiny from the public.

Regardless of its image, Robinhood is still reporting huge numbers, as traffic surpassed 50 million. The popularity has not ceased, more than likely due to the ease of investing on the app, as well as the psychological tools used to keep investors trading.

Perhaps Robinhood will continue to make changes to the app to safeguard further financial ruin and even deaths, but until then, we may continue to see Robinhood hitting headlines.