Gamification

foursquare

Gamification is the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used.

Gamification’s proponents argue that it works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and being more engaging, and by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. Available data from gamified websites, applications, and processes indicate potential improvements in areas such as user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning.

Early examples of gamification are based on giving reward points to people who share experiences on location-based platforms such as Foursquare: Some of the techniques include: achievement ‘badges’; achievement levels; ‘leader boards’; a progress bar or other visual meter to indicate how close people are to completing a task a company is trying to encourage, such as completing a social networking profile or earning a frequent shopper loyalty award; virtual currency; systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and otherwise exchanging points; challenges between users; and embedding small casual games within other activities.

Gamification is used on ‘Stack Overflow,’ a question-and-answer site for programmers, and on all of its sister sites for other topics (including the non-Q&A careers site ‘Careers 2.0’). Users receive points and/or badges for performing a variety of actions, including spreading links to questions and answers via Facebook and Twitter. A large number of different badges are available, and when a user’s reputation points exceed various thresholds, he or she gains additional privileges, including at the higher end, the privilege of helping to moderate the site. Points and badges do not generally carry over between sister sites, because a user’s expertise in one topic (such as programming) may be unrelated to their level of expertise, or lack thereof, in another topic. However, one exception is that a user gains 100 reputation points for linking their accounts on sister sites together, if they have at least 200 points on one of them.

Applications like ‘Fitocracy’ and ‘QUENTIQ’ use gamification to encourage its users to exercise more effectively and improve their overall health. Users are awarded varying numbers of points for activities they perform in their workouts and gain levels based on points collected. Users can also complete quests (sets of related activities) and gain achievement badges for fitness milestones.

The technique captured the attention of venture capitalists, one of whom said he considered gamification to be the most promising area in gaming. Another observed that half of all companies seeking funding for consumer software applications mentioned game design in their presentations. Several researchers have considered gamification to be closely related to earlier work on adapting game-design elements and techniques to non-game contexts. Deterding et al. survey research in human–computer interaction that uses game-derived elements for motivation and interface design, and Nelson argues for a connection to both the Soviet concept of socialist competition, and the American management trend of ‘fun at work.’ Through the nature of gamification as a data aggregator and its growing adoption, multiple legal restrictions may apply to gamification. Some refer to the use of virtual currencies and virtual assets, data privacy laws and data protection, or labor laws.

The term ‘gamification’ and the practices it describes have received negative attention from game industry professionals, business consultants and executives, academics, and communications professionals. A Stanford professor, in a book on the subject, suggested that the gamification of businesses and virtual worlds is creating an expectation among people that real-life interactions follow simple mechanics, and some disillusionment occurs when they do not. Some critics dismiss gamification as a buzzword, and note that many of its techniques have been in place for a long time. Gamification elements are already present in everyday activities such as happy hours, loyalty programs, etc. For business purposes, gamification is invalid, faddish, exploitative, an oversimplification, or a renaming of existing practices. Gamification has also been accused of adding to and preying upon the confusion among business decision makers about the meaningful distinctions between games, video games, social games, gamification, game mechanics, etc. Critics point to negative consequences of making simple game-like consumer interactions an end in themselves, rather than designing either high quality games or full product designs. Gamification sometimes misses elements such as storytelling and experiences which are central to what make games effective, or that gamification has mistaken the addition of points for the application of genuine game mechanics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s