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While I have been spending time on my possible next start-up around the ‘Second Screens‘, the topic of Gamification is one of the few that has captured my interest a little more than some others. I follow it somewhat regularly, and when I met this exchange student from MIT at TU Delft (we’ve now become good friends) who was making a plan around her Master Thesis Project to be more exciting, interactive and compelling, I shrugged and said just 1 word – “Gamify”.

It is possible I made the common error of misunderstanding her problem and use the over-hyped word, but she carefully answered saying “It’s not that I did not consider this option. It’s just that I don’t actually understand this whole concept, nor do I know how (and if it’s possible) to gamify. Now since you said it – Elaborate”.

I like going back to basics every now and then – Invariably use the old fashioned pen and paper (or even whiteboard/blackboard if possible) – so we had a little session on Gamification at Kaldi in Delft. Although, I will not talk about her project here and I my intended audience are those who would like to familiarize themselves with this topic, I hope anyone reading this post will find it interesting.

First comes first – How do we define GamificationForrester holds the opinion that it is “The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior”, a sentiment shared by Gartner as well. Basically, Gamification involves the use of game elements in non-gaming scenarios to improve user experience (UX) & user engagement.

Ok, so do we really need to use games at work? Sounds overrated. Andrzej Marczewski nicely puts it across mentioning the changing dynamics, especially around Learning & Development and Training. The old-school thinking Vs. the pace of the digital-age. But more importantly, Gamification is not about people playing games! The Microsoft Ribbon Hero 2 is a wonderful example of learning while having fun, retaining motivation and using gaming elements to what would otherwise have been a routine/mundane task of reading manuals or attending tutorials.

Working, learning and fun combine

Mario – One of the poster Boys of Gamification

The What & How of Gamification –
Possibly you will still say “Not yet convincing Adi. Can you explain what and how things happen in Gamification. Does it really work?”
I think it works, but, let me start with telling you that Gartner recently published an article saying 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives by 2014. When you dig a little deeper to read why – it is because of poor design. That I believe is the indication to why Gamification is something that will actually work. With the right design – the fundamental objective can be achieved. Gamification is not exactly ‘new’. For years now, people have been trying to achieve what we earlier defined ‘Gamification’. Like many things, something of the past is coming repackaged and under a fancy new title. It is easy to get ‘lost’ in the hype and that’s why, I believe, companies like Badgeville and Bunchball will smile at these predictions knowing they’ll survive in the longer run. They’ve understood how to keep it simple, ask the right questions to themselves and package the deliverable nice and fancy to clients. Exactly what is needed.

If I could answer in a simple sentence the question of “Typically, in today’s world How Does Gamification Work” it would be –  By the making of leader-boards and the awarding of badges, points and other rewards for achieving predefined targets with suitable strategies.
Foursquare, Farmville and Klout are good examples of this.

While there is no problem with badges and points, it is not advisable or enough to stick only to this. Points and Badges are not the solution and if that becomes the focus, you’re bound to have a poor design! The smarter ones are designing to collaborate and cooperate to complete & solve tasks. This is more difficult but a nice idea because it involves a lot of people, there is a dependance and yet there is teamwork. (Remember having fun playing that online game of Counter-Strike??)

Then of course there is the using of strategies to realize the badges/points/score etc. This is done to make the user feel they’ve accomplished something! A feeling of progress or winning – which forms one of the foundations of this concept.

The Accomplishment

The All Important Recognition after Measuring Progress

Does Gamification have an enterprise focus? Yes. Gamification is no more just for training programs, today it’s gaining immense popularity in wellness/health programs, retail/shopping, financial services, studies etc. In fact recently we saw Capgemini partner with Badgeville. Reports from IDC, Gartner and Forrester read ‘The worldwide market for gamification technology and services will rise from the current $242 million to $2.8 billion in 2016’, and, ‘Within three years, 40% of the Global 1000 companies will use gamification, to improve performance and efficiency of their business operations’.

Final Thoughts –

The challenge is to think like a player and a designer (in a loop). This helps understand the emotional-connect as a user and the intrinsic-value of your “product” as a designer. With just the right advancements, user motivation is retained and we can continue to engage them with appropriate rewards.

4 questions I asked myself while I thought of Gamification. Maybe you’ll find them useful too –

  1. “What do I want to achieve with Gamification?”
  2. “Who am I doing this for?”
  3. “Will there be a substantial effect on my users after this / Why will they keep wanting to use this feature and recommend it to others?”
  4. “How am I going to Gamify?”

To pictorially represent it –

The loop in Gamification

The loop in Gamification

We have, in essence, 2 components – The designer and The user. The designer has a perspective of the design while the behavior of the user is what you have to (and want to) capture. You need a solid idea – because that’s what makes you valuable. If the foundation itself is not well thought of – Game Over. Now it’s not good enough having a good idea you need to make it compelling and nice, how are you going to present this idea to the user. The user might use what you’ve developed, so what? Can you make sense of this data? How will you do it? Who is going to make the interface and carry out the analytics? Do you have the capability to do it in-house?
The user is a much more complex entity. What have you got in that idea which will make the user want to come back? Who are you targeting to engage here? What rewards and recognition are you giving that will drive up engagement and the experience they are looking for? Is it just virtual or is it something tangible? How creative are you in this aspect?

Is Gamification a hype or is it worth investigating further in here? I hope this post inclines your thinking to the latter.

Games and not Gamification has been a part of our childhood. The enthusiasm & joy of playing games can be infectious. Gamification wants to use this aspect. Yet so many kids across the world don’t get this opportunity to play and learn. I hope NGO’s start using Gamification to attract more people help solve the complex problems they are facing and get resources they need. Until that moment maybe you can help Gift a Smile 🙂
It would have been fun to Gamify this post. Maybe give 1 “Adi point” for every view, 2 for a Tweet, 3 for a FB-Like, 4 for a Reblog …. 10 points can redeem you a call/email with me, up to 20 for a meeting and higher than that… hmmm 😉