9 years, 3 months ago

Gamification: Digging past the marketing hype

Link: http://workitsmart.blogspot.com/2012/04/gamification-digging-past-marketing.html

Photo Credit: Christopher Chan
One of my first reactions when I heard about gamification was, isn’t this an old idea?  I have seen past examples of using game concepts to meet business objectives.  In fact, I was part of one such project, where we created a wheel-of-fortune-like game to raise awareness of computer security issues.  Moreover, there are many old examples of education software incorporating game concepts into them.  What then is different about gamification?  Surely the concept of using fun to engage people is not new!  One university professor felt so strongly that he wrote an article titled “Gamification is Bullshit”[1]!  Consequently, for a while, I half believed that gamification was just marketing hype with no real novelty behind it.
Later I encountered an explanation that though gamification is not a new idea, it is gamification’s widespread impact that is new, and that has come about because of the emergence of a generation grown up on games.  As such, gamification is now more widely accepted, where before it was locked out of business boardrooms.  There is some truth to this, but as I read more, I discovered that there is even more depth to this topic.

Identifying Game Mechanics

Firstly, I discovered game mechanics/dynamics—mechanisms in games that make them interesting and engaging.  For example, one mechanics is the “appointment dynamic”, where players need to accomplish a certain task at a certain time.  Happy hours at bars is an example of this mechanic.  I was impressed with how gamification literature was able to systematically categorize and describe many more mechanics, and that moved me to believe that there is some science behind the topic.

Learning about Engagement Psychology

Next, I realized that studying motivation and engagement is much more important now than before as the number of choices for things like websites and mobile apps have grown overwhelmingly.  Games are arguably the best place to study these topics.  Unlike other software, there are no practical needs—like creating documents or booking hotels—driving people to games.  As such, games need to work harder to entice and engage people.  Even though I was tempted to dismiss gamification as a rebrand of engagement psychology, I find games easier to understand and access than psychology literature.

Understanding Gamification Considerations

The book “Gamification by Design”[2]further strengthened my confidence in gamification.  It gives a detailed write-up on the different game mechanics along with considerations when incorporating those mechanics.  I began to see that gamification might have gotten bad press because some implemented its concept without fully appreciating the “whys” and the “hows”.  For example, “points system” is a common feature in gamified systems, but without careful consideration of when and how many points to award, it would be useless in increasing user engagement.
Gamification is a topic worthy of serious consideration in the present age of attention deficit, what do you think?
After note: I wrote a followup post titled “Five gamification ideas to better engage your audience“.


[2]Gamification by Design, Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham, http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920014614.do