Gamification Explained


The term Gamification has been around since about 2010, and is mostly used to explain the recent trend in awarding points for just about everything from checking into your local coffee house to going to the gym or even doing boring CRM data entry. Wikipedia have a pretty good definition here, but I like Gabe Zickerman’s take…

Gamification is the use of game design techniques and game mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences

Another cool definition uses the concept of competition between two or more independent decision makers. These are the core principles:

  • Game design: people are hard wired for story telling. Great games tell great stories so that people care
  • Game mechanics: badges, achievements, points, status and other tools which can be used to turn everyday activities into game activities
  • Solving problems: games are designed around challenges which must be overcome, whether this is a quest to rescue the princess or the challenge of gaining platinum status in your frequent flyer program
  • Engaging audiences: people will only want to play your game if it is engaging, this means it needs to be fun and it needs to have a point that they care about

Why use Gamification? 

Is there more to gamification than awarding badges for turning u at work, or points for brushing your teeth? Critics of gamification might say that it is just a lot of hype to make existing marketing activities (like loyalty programs) sound cool, or that it is simply another shallow attempt to monetise social media. They might have a point. There really is no substitute for designing products and services that work, and that fulfil a genuine need. Adding a game layer won’t make a bad product any better. But I think that misses the point. Done right, gamification can add a new dimension to a range of activities…

Gamification in Practice

Here are some example that go beyond the hype of marketing:

Zurmo have gamified their open source CRM tool, adding a layer of competitive rivalry to the sales force (e.g. status awards for number of sales leads converted)

RedCritterTracker have gamified project management, enabling project managers to award points and rewards to staff as they complete project tasks

Fitocracy have gamified personal fitness, with points and status for completing training challenges

But what else can be done? Over the next few days I’ll take a closer look at gamification in practice and try to offer some insight of my own into how we might gamify the workplace in fun and interesting ways.


5 thoughts on “Gamification Explained

  1. Great article. We feel gamification can help increase usage, especially in applications as dull as CRM systems. Gartner Research predicts that by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will incorporate at least one gamified application or process. With Gartner making these claims, this is more than just hype, but rather a trend that will continue to grow over the next 4-5 years.

    We have been talking about some of the same principles you brought up:

  2. I teach CIS classes part time at a local community college. There is a college improvement grant awarded each year. I’m in the process of writing up a proposal for a gamification process to improve semester over semester retention and a new student campus awareness campaign.

    Interesting thing was, I went to the instructors teaching game theory and asked if they wanted to be a part of the grant and they wouldn’t touch it.

    Think FourSquare with badges and check-ins, with prizes to be claimed at the beginning of each semester, yet with special events planned throughout the semester in conjunction with different student groups. One thing I’m trying to get the college to agree to is early semester registration (1 or 2 days) for high point total students as a reward.

    Should be a fun project.

      1. I should have done a better job explaining that. Sorry.

        I don’t think it was because they didn’t see value in the proposed project. I should have mentioned that we have new leadership in our CIS department and with state funding cuts, I think the game theory folks thought their area was getting the short end of the stick. One person confided in me that after 10 years of teaching, he won’t be returning as an adjunct.

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