(by Chapman, Patrick; Nordic Book Group)
The concept of gamification is, to some extent, ultimately rooted in these foundational human behaviors of stimulus and response. Individuals naturally (based on the inherent reward structure of nature) strive for achievement, and when rewarded, will continue to strive for more and greater levels of success. ... Gamification represents the natural extension of this concept into the non-‘game for game’s sake’ world of business, education, and other parts of society. ... At its core, gamification differs from traditional game development because it is linked to the achievement of one or more non-game goals. Most gamification efforts seek to achieve or drive one or more of the following: motivation, differentiation, and/or stickiness.
Gamification of non-game activities, from practicing math problems to purchasing organic yogurt online, is accomplished by leveraging basic game design practices and straightforward game mechanics and elements.
The most significant differentiator between an activity that uses a gaming element such as a badge for completion and a truly gamified activity is whether the individual is truly empowered to make choices and control outcomes.
Virtually all good gamification approaches embed mechanisms that are fun for a ‘player’ to engage in.
Presenting one or a series of problems to individuals generates a foundational level of motivation to solve those problems because the desire to problem-solve is, for the most part, innate.
Information or expertise sharing and collaboration also represents an element of ‘fun’ that, when used appropriately, can generate improved outcomes.
Individuals also generally love to explore and discover. By providing paths that give options to individuals, engagement is often increased significantly. Many online training programs are beginning to embed training into virtual office environments that allow an individual to wander virtually from office to office and encounter various types of information or issues that must be solved. The use of non-linear paths and information presentation takes advantage of an individual’s innate desire to explore an environment.
Individuals also derive enjoyment from building and completing collections of objects, real or virtual. Whether its stamps and coins or online farming badges, people generally love to acquire ‘pieces’ of a collection and are naturally motivated to complete collections by obtaining all possible pieces.
Gamification works best when players are rewarded for their participation and, when applicable, their completion of the activity. Tangible rewards, such as free or discounted products and services, often represent the best rewards for many activities. However, intangible rewards often work as well or better depending on the circumstances and objectives.
Even with the above elements present, many activities do not create or represent a gamified environment. For example, embedding an actual game into an environment, such as a dartboard in a bar, is not gamification. This simply represents providing an actual game to play in the hopes that it drives sustained presence.
Additionally, simulations of activity, even if they may be fun to engage in, also do not represent gamification by themselves – simply mimicking or simulating an action or process, even if it drives increased knowledge or skill is not what gamifying an activity is about.
First, the goals of the gamified approach must align with the accomplishment of the desired real world objectives. Additionally, another major component is the use of one or more traditional game mechanisms that generate enjoyment for the individual engaging in the gamified activity. The presentation of the gamified environment through the use of common game elements is also a major component of gamification. Lastly, the use of story progression helps fully structure and immerse the individual’s activity into the concept of playing a game.
A critical aspect of aligning real world goals with the gamified environment is the set of choices associated with how to best design it to motivate achievement.
Another important element of design choice is the reward structure and selection of actual rewards. Will the gamified approach use virtual or real rewards (or both)? What are the best rewards?
Another consideration from a design perspective is the level of complexity of game mechanisms. Over-engineered gamified systems with elaborate stories, branching mechanisms, points, leaderboards, and rules may actually deter engagement as individuals sense the level of personal investment or the learning curve may be too high. On the other hand, a simple progress bar might leave significant opportunity for increased engagement unrealized. Complexity must be considered and right-sized to the desired real-word goals and objectives.
The use of traditional game elements in presenting the game to individuals is crucial for successful gamification. Without appropriate and consistent presentation of the game and its dynamics, individuals are often confused, or even unaware that a consistent game is being played and what they are doing is tied together within a single game environment. Individuals have come to expect and rely upon a combination of visual cues and game elements to understand that a game is presented and how it is played. If an individual is presented with two vertical and two horizontal lines for example, it almost begs for an X or an O to be drawn within the lines. Gamified environments are no different. To gamify an activity and create a consistent game environment, the most common elements used include:
Regardless of the story chosen, progression of the story is a critical component of effective gamification. An individual should feel as if they are moving through the game as they engage or complete the desired activities. Successful progression is usually comprised of three major stages including the induction of the player into the gamified environment, their immersion into the activities and progression through them, and finally the completion of the game.
Testing and piloting whenever possble.
Being selective about what is being gamified.
Badgeville (TM). Gigya (TM). Bunchball (TM). BigDoor. Klash.
Gamification as a mechanism to increase engagement will almost certainly continue to grow, and grow substantially, for years to come. However, an initial perspective emerging associated with gamification is that as more organizations leverage gamification, it will lose much, if not most, of its power and meaning. If every website or organizational activity is gamified the thinking goes, then much of the power of gamification is reduced or even eliminated. Certainly overuse within a single organization or across groups of organizations could lead to a level of saturation that begins to reduce the effectiveness of gamification on the individual.
Last modified 14 January 2022