What is Gamification?

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 12 May 2015

Tags: , , , , , , ,

In the last few years gamification has had phenomenal growth as a means of improving knowledge, employee and customer engagement in a fun, interactive fashion. In fact, gamification is 10 times more effective at information recall than traditional computer-based learning techniques. It also can contribute to greater viral/social communications and peer-to-peer recognition and rewards through leader boards and badges.

What is gamification? You may have heard this term floating around the Internet or maybe even in the halls of your office. A lot of people think they know what gamification is, but there is a lot of misconception and mystery around the topic. Gamification is a relatively new topic. While the practice of what we know as “gamification” has been around for a long time, there was never a name associated with it until the early 2000’s. And even then, it didn’t become popular until 2010.

After a couple of years Oxford finally added it to the dictionary in 2012. Oxford defines gamification as: “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others rules of play to other areas of activity”. So in other words, it’s the idea of using game/design thinking in nongame applications to motivate and engage users and solve problems.

When we talk about gamification, we aren’t talking about Mario Kart, Madden or Call of Duty and it’s definitely not Angry Birds, Words with Friends or Snake. Unfortunately, these are the things that pop into people’s heads when they hear the word “gamification”. If senior leadership is hesitant to implement a gamification program, it’s probably because they think you are going to let everyone play games all day at work.

The good news is gamification is NOT about playing a game. Gamification is just the idea of using game mechanics to fulfill our understanding in a fun and compelling fashion. Most likely, you’re already doing gamification in some form or another. For instance, if you have ever used the app Four Square, you know you are awarded badges for checking in to various locations around town. Or, have you ever noticed the little progress bar on LinkedIn that encouraged you to fill out your profile so you can achieve 100% completion? Or what about your frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty programs… did you know that gamification is part of that too? Rewards programs keep you coming back by tracking your travel behavior and leveling you up to the next status level once you’ve achieved a certain number of trips. Yep, they are all examples of gamification.

Understanding the Components of Gamification

Game dynamics include rewards, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism. Game mechanics are actions, behavior and control mechanisms used to gamify an activity to create a compelling and engaging user experience. These include points, different levels, challenges, virtual goods/space, leader boards and gifts and rewards. When combined, you are creating a gamification environment that people will use and enjoy.

According to Gartner, 70% of the world’s largest companies were expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by this year. More than 40% of the global 1000 companies will use Gamification to transform business operations. Companies that we all know well such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Aetna, Walmart, Ford and HP are using gamification. For instance, My Starbucks Rewards had 4.5 million active members in 2012 and was expected to have over 10 million members by 2014 with over 3 million mobile transactions per week in the United States. Aetna adopted Mindbloom, a Life Game platform, to help customers and employees adopt healthy life habits. Members visited four times per week and an average engagement was 14 minutes and 41 seconds per visit. It helped users better manage specific physical conditions and monitor areas correlated to health outcomes.

Gamification is hot. And it is something that you need to know about and understand. If you would like to learn more and receive a free presentation about the do’s and don’ts of gamification please let us know.