What is Gamification?

Gamification is a concept taken from video games and it refers to the use of game design techniques and game mechanics to turn tasks/work into a fun experience. Today we can find the gamification context applied pretty much everywhere, from social media, marketing, business, education, health… It’s used in different contexts to motivate users to shop, learn, work, etc.

This concept was born around 2004 to gain popularity in 2007 to become a trend in 2010. Even though it’s a concept that’s quite developed and studied nowadays, and that there are many who have managed to do wonderful things with it, there’s still many who think gamification is about adding a badge system and achievements. There are many examples of gamification, I’ll leave you with a couple less commercial which hit closer to home for many of us.

Every day chores can now be tackled through gamification thanks to ChoreWars, a web that turns doing chores into an epic adventure. To play you need the household to create a character and give your coven a name, then create your personal quests their rewards. Quests can vary difficulty depending who plays the game and one’s creativity as “Going to the humid caves of the North and clean Triton’s white jewel without making the fierce seals aware” for a yummy reward is more interesting than “Clean the bath tub without anyone hearing you”. This rewards make your character level up, get new attributes and improve skills (if it’s a ninja, dexterity is best!) so it makes the family “compete” to complete the household chores.

Another good example of real life gamification is SuperBetter, an initiative from the author of Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal (@avantgame). In their web page they challenge you to give yourself an epic goal (running a marathon for example) then help you adapt personal quests, enemies (the sofa and TV combo is an elite boss!), power ups (whatever gives you a boost in energy or mood, like a light milkshake in your favourite place), to help you reach that goal. Also you can have allies (all superheroes do!) that are chosen by you (usually family and friends) so they help you reach your epic goal by accompanying you along the way and giving you extra quests.

Other links to gamified products:

https://es.foursquare.com/

http://www.greengoose.com/

http://simonesmith.hubpages.com/hub/Gamify-Your-Life

http://nikerunning.nike.com

To me personally, Gamification is the art to transform something monotonous, a boring task into something epic, fun, with personal meaning. However, someone wise once said “not all video games are fun” which is quite true So, how can we evaluate if the gamification of a product/activity is good or not? I’ll leave you with what I consider to be the core and fundamental traits to evaluate gamification:

  • Objective – A clear objective as well as clear steps to get to it along with factors that might affect the process.

  • Rules – Rules to help understanding the process and progress analysis.

  • Feedback System – A feedback system that informs of the progress and helps potentiate the user’s wise decisions.

  • Rewards System – Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, positive XXX, immediate rewards, etc.

  • Voluntary participation – Participation on the objective personalization, as well as Flow and Fiero (McGonigal’s emotional activation) of the activity.

Even if I’m a gamification enthusiast, this wouldn’t be a complete post without considering the other point of view. Some theorist suggest gamification destroys the whole concept of having video games to play, and that’s just another way to exploit the consumer; others worry that gamification can affect the liberty of decision making, and that we all end up doing things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Between other authors, we have Ian Bogost and Krystle Jiang (THE DANGERS OF GAMIFICATION – Why We Shouldn’t Build a Game Layer on Top of the World) which I find they are interesting lectures if you are interested to know more about it.

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