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Gamification Simplified

game design gamification motivation Jun 19, 2017

Gamification is the use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game contexts. Let me break that down.

Game Elements:  Think of game elements as a toolkit for building a game. Game elements include game pieces, avatars, rules, scoring points, proceeding to the next level, receiving badges, or unlocking a reward. As you begin to gamify a system, you can and should modify the elements to target certain business objectives and to make the experience more engaging.

Game Techniques:  The aspects of games that make them fun, addicting, and challenging can’t be reduced to a list of components or step-by-step instructions. This is where game-design techniques come in. How do you decide which game elements to put where to create an overall productive gamified experience? Just like strategic leadership, managing a team, or creating a killer marketing campaign, game design is a strong mix of knowledge, skill, and luck.

Non-game Context:  The final aspect of our definition is that gamification operates in non-game contexts such as onboarding, marketing, training, client engagement, etc. The key element in each is that they involve real-world business goals. Your players are not storming a fortress, they are exploring the website of your new product. They are not collecting gold coins, they are collecting achievements on the way to learning a new skill or process in the workplace.

The three major non-game contexts are:  internal, external, and behavior change.

  • Internal gamification means that companies can use gamification to improve productivity within the organization in order to encourage innovation, enhance teamwork, or otherwise obtain positive business results through their own employees. The motivational dynamics of gamification must interact with the firm’s existing management and reward structures.
  • External gamification involves your customers or prospective clients, members, or donors. These applications are generally driven by marketing objectives. Gamification here is a way to improve the relationships between businesses and customers, producing increased engagement, identification with the product, stronger loyalty, and ultimately higher revenues.
  • Behavior-change gamification seeks to form beneficial new habits among a population. That can involve anything from encouraging people to make better health choices, such as eating better or working out more, to redesigning the classroom to make kids learn more while actually enjoying school. Generally, these new habits produce desirable societal outcomes: less obesity, lower medical expenses, or a more effective educational system.

Gamification invites people to participate and engage by integrating game mechanics and game dynamics into non-game contexts. My favorite space to use gamification is in the area of Talent Development. By adding game mechanics to training, Gamification not only increases interest, it makes training “fun.” 

The goal is to increase learning and engagement through key concepts found in game design and behavioral psychology.

Welcome to the Real World

The challenge of gamification, therefore, is to take the elements that normally operate within a game space and apply them effectively in the real world.

Gamification of real-world activities represents a powerful technique which can drive motivation in individuals, differentiate an organization from other similar organizations, and help generate loyalty to the organization, its products, or its messages.

Most gamification efforts seek to achieve or drive one or more of the following: motivation, differentiation, and/ or stickiness. There are a variety of ways gamification of real-world activities motivate, including:

Engagement - When challenged and rewarded, individuals are naturally motivated to engage more directly and intensely with information or activities. When implemented successfully, gamifying an activity can result in increased engagement.

Competition – A sales leaderboard in an office represents a gamification mechanic that can help motivate individuals to move up or stay on top by selling more. Gamification elements that generate competition can act as powerful motivators.

Progression – The inclusion of a progress bar linked to a simple set of tasks, such as completing training, frequently results in an immediate improvement in individual and collective progress towards the real-world goal. By using gaming mechanics such as badges or ‘leveling up’, individuals are often motivated to continue to strive for higher levels of achievement.

Habit Formation – Once a pattern is established, individuals are more often motivated by the reward to engage in activity as a preprogrammed response – individuals are likely to continuously engage in activities which reward specific behaviors.

Gamification is an important strategy for influencing and motivating people, and forward thinking organizations everywhere are beginning to understand the power of gamification to increase engagement to improve their bottom line and are eager to learn how to leverage its power.


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