Definition of gamification

What is gamification?

Gamification describes the encouragement of people’s participation in non-gaming contexts and activities through the use of game-style mechanics.

Key takeaways

  • Gamification is the use of game elements in non-game activities.
  • Employing gamification can improve customer and employee engagement, drive sales, and lower costs.
  • Gamification can have some drawbacks, depending on how it is implemented.

Understanding gamification

Gamification harnesses people’s natural tendencies toward competition, achievement, collaboration, and charity. Tools used in game design, such as rewarding users for achievements, “leveling up,” and earning badges, are brought into the real world to help motivate people to achieve their goals or improve performance. There are many examples of gamification, perhaps the best known being the frequent flyer rewards programs offered by airlines. Important and measurable metrics of gamification success include level of engagement, influence, brand loyalty, time spent on an activity, and the game’s ability to go viral.

Gamification describes the incorporation of game style incentives into everyday or non-gambling activities. Every time game features or aspects of game design are introduced in non-game contexts, gamification is taking place. In other words, real-world activities resemble a game to motivate people to achieve their goals. Frequent flyer programs, loyalty rewards points, and frequent shopper points are good examples of the daily use of gamification. In all these examples, customers are encouraged to continue “playing” and accumulating points by rewarding continued consumption.

Not all examples of gamification encourage people to spend. Nike + is an application that encourages users to exercise by turning personal fitness into a game. Several nonprofit organizations sponsor competitive friendly events (-a-thons) to increase charitable giving. Biological science has advanced by encouraging players to fold proteins.

Educational platforms can encourage learning through gamification, unlocking various levels and badges based on the successful completion of learning outcomes.

An important avenue of gamification is the workplace. By introducing game elements into a job, employers can help workers track their own performance, set goals, and participate in friendly competition that can improve the work environment and improve business performance. You can encourage employees to do their best and give them rewards that are directly related to their level of effort.

Gamification risks

Gamification is useful and successful because it taps into the same human psychology that makes people enjoy winning at games and dislike or even fear losing. As a result, it can also have some disadvantages.

Choosing the right mechanisms and metrics can be challenging. Since these are the topics that the participants will focus on, it is important that the elements of the game encourage the desired behavior. Poorly designed or implemented gamification can become a distraction from other priorities, encouraging people to literally play with the system, or causing players to engage in zero-sum or even negative-sum competition with one another. Any of these results can be a waste of time and money.

Gaming can also sometimes become notoriously addictive, as has been seen with immersive video games and compulsive gambling. This poses potential risks when using gamification for commercial purposes. From the point of view of a business entity that benefits from employees or customers developing an addictive compulsion to work or consume (and pay for) a product, this is a positive feature. But for workers and consumers it can easily be seen as manipulative or exploitative and pose potential ethical issues.

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Mark Holland

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