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Gamification: It's Like Playing Diablo For Everything You Do

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 21 comments

On the heels of the Gamification Summit in San Francisco, we take a look at the topic.

As we are all playing Diablo III, we are witnessing another role-playing trend emerging in the software industry that is called gamification. It is not driven by game developers, but by a handful of quickly growing vendors who believe that video games are more than just a small part of our entertainment life. They predict that one day video games could be at the heart of our professional and private lives as well.

There is no way around it. Our desire to be entertained, whether actively or passively, is deeply rooted in our human nature. It appears that our society is increasingly in love with great video games. In 2011, we spent more than $50 billion on video games, video game rentals, subscriptions, digital downloads, casual games, social games, mobile games, and downloadable content, according to M2 Research. There are now games that earn more than $1 billion in total sales.

Online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft have laid the foundation for companies like Blizzard to generate almost $5 billion in quarterly revenue. We should not forget the casual game industry that is growing at astonishing rates, especially due to the popularity of Facebook and its 970 million users.  Almost a quarter billion of those users are attracted to the games of Zynga. It’s a market that is hard to comprehend by traditional measures, and one that holds the keys to unprecedented sales opportunities for those who can understand and take advantage of it. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are ideas forming to expand the concept of gaming for more purposes than those with which we are currently familiar.

The evolving trend is called gamification or, more scientifically, audience behavior management. The basic approach is to use mechanics in video games to devise much more appealing non-game applications. The goal is to change an existing behavior with non-gaming applications in order to achieve greater engagement with a brand or task that we normally would not enjoy as much. You could complain that, as a consumer, you are being unfairly exploited. However, if we realize that we are willing to completely immerse ourselves in video games and often spend hundreds of hours playing them, we may not mind as long as our private lives are not invaded and traditional gaming values are still provided.

Gaming Values

The most fascinating part about gamification is its deeply analytical approach to creating a gamification platform or a single gamified application. Of course, the foundation for gamification has been around for a long time. Think about the Kid’s Meal from a fast-food restaurant, the game on the back of a cereal box, eLearning apps, or brand-sponsored casual games. These are all basic examples of gamification that are attempts to promote consumers’ engagement with a brand and product. Video game-driven gamification goes one step further. It aims to leverage the key gaming mechanics of the most successful game designs to reach our motivations that make us play a video game. Such motivations include, for example, our desire to collect rewards, to brag about our achievements and our desire to win.

Typical game mechanics include a discoverable path to win, cheats, progressive level design, self-education, team play, action feedback, scores, leaderboards and rewards. With the integration of social networks, communication and sharing is added. Remember the latest reports of video gamers solving a decades-old scientific puzzle that could lead to the development of a new AIDS drug? High-value entertainment has a stunning capability of making us do (and enjoy) things that we don’t usually do. There are countless more mechanics and dynamics, but you get the point. These are core features that make us want to play video games. Our engagement with gamification is measurable in various ways: the return to an app, page views, the time spent with an app, our willingness to click on a “share” button, and to purchase more products. These behaviors expose users not by what they claim they do, but what they actually do.

Beyond these core features, we are noticing a new industry evolving that is trying to understand our engagement with games in every detail. What UX design do we prefer? What drives our social engagement? How can you more reliably achieve crowd-sourcing from the people you target as well as those you do not? What are the sources for our desire to become popular, and what mechanics deliver on that desire? In this perspective, gamification is not just a layer on top of social marketing. It’s a new world of opportunities that can drive a new era of product and brand marketing, scientific advances, and professional achievements.

The most successful of solution providers, which include companies such as Badgeville, Big Door, and Bunchball (all of which believe that they will be approximately doubling their employee base this year), are already moving beyond those simple mechanics and will be offering ways to actually measure and tune our engagement with gamification. Within five years, gamification could turn into a $3 billion market according to M2 Research.

Gamifying Your Employment

Of course, gamification is not just an advanced version of the Kid’s Meal package at McDonald’s. Gamification is not industry-limited. It will also emerge in professional applications in a category that is referred to as enterprise gamification. Imagine a desktop for a sales person that turns into a video game application. The goals of the game, defined by the sales manager, may include traditional values such as actual sales, but also engagement on social networks to drive marketing values as well as team-building activity.

Achieved goals (which could include as little as a certain number of tweets) will result in “badges” for bragging rights as well as rewards such as points that can be used toward the purchase of actual products. In the future, your manager may not hand you a Starbucks gift card as a thank you, but you will be able to check out the company store to see what your achievements are worth in bonuses such as vacations. Competitive team play will be a major component to motivate employees to spend more time at work and, in the end, discover a strategy to win the game. It is not difficult to predict that a video game scenario will make dry sales applications much more entertaining and could increase employee engagement with relevant applications.

A similar scenario, with different goals, could be used for virtually all other professions. For example, imagine a nurse whose job is not to just provide health care service, but who is also a customer representative whose performance is largely measured by the customer satisfaction scores on the unit she works. Even nurses could be dealing with gamification as part of their evaluation process in the future.

The Bottom Line: Consumerization at its Best

There is no doubt in my mind that gamification will be the biggest trend in advertising and marketing in years, and it will be deeply integrated into marketing departments within 12 to 24 months. The most compelling argument for it is that gamification is a natural process that we have already accepted. The evolution of the technique will teach marketers how to balance their marketing message with consumer value and information retrieval. Marketers, however, will get new tools, and their creativity will be tested once more and more gamified applications flood the market and companies will still have to achieve success by standing out.

A much bigger issue may be enterprise gamification, which scarily compares to role-playing games that blur our capability to differentiate between a game and reality. While the obvious concern in such an environment would be trends toward greed and envy, we also know that enterprise gamification will especially appeal to a new generation that is growing up with video games as an essential and natural part of their lives. They understand games, are comfortable with games, and they are willing to play.

Besides the iPad, this may be the best example of consumerization yet. Coined as a term to describe the effects of Web 2.0, consumerization refers to trends that are created by consumers and then are adopted by the enterprise world. Sure, your job won’t be playing Diablo III, but there is a chance that it may be close.

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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    DroKing , June 23, 2012 6:34 PM
    Quit using Diablo 3 as example. it's staggering sales does not indicate it is good, look at COD for example that game is a pile of steamy turd. It just just massive due to over hyped marketing schemes. Diablo 3 is TRASH. have a good day
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , June 23, 2012 4:40 PM
    This idea has been around a long time, I've incorporated aspects in my website work but in the end tricking users into behaving how you want them to behave with little carrots is difficult to pull off in many realms without being spotted for what it is.
  • 0 Hide
    danawesome89 , June 23, 2012 5:14 PM
    Of course gamification has been around for a long time, and will likely grow. I think that the most natural place for it to continue its growth is in education. I mean, take a look at what Khan Academy is doing. For better or worse (and I really think it could be either), I think that is the future of K-12 education.

    I think that the challenge is that although gamification can increase engagement and motivation, it changes the underlying type of engagement and motivation. The goal becomes to do well at the game, rather than to excel at the job, education, etc.
  • Display all 21 comments.
  • -4 Hide
    bemused_fred , June 23, 2012 5:47 PM
    But....but playing Diablo 3 is already all I do!
  • 1 Hide
    zulutech , June 23, 2012 5:49 PM
    danawesome89Of course gamification has been around for a long time, and will likely grow. I think that the most natural place for it to continue its growth is in education. I mean, take a look at what Khan Academy is doing. For better or worse (and I really think it could be either), I think that is the future of K-12 education.I think that the challenge is that although gamification can increase engagement and motivation, it changes the underlying type of engagement and motivation. The goal becomes to do well at the game, rather than to excel at the job, education, etc.

    I could see someone losing their perspective quite quickly.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 23, 2012 5:57 PM
    Masterificationbation.

  • 2 Hide
    Stardude82 , June 23, 2012 6:17 PM
    In ev'ry job that must be done
    There is an element of fun
    You find the fun and snap!
    The job's a game
    -Sherman & Sherman (1964)
  • 12 Hide
    DroKing , June 23, 2012 6:34 PM
    Quit using Diablo 3 as example. it's staggering sales does not indicate it is good, look at COD for example that game is a pile of steamy turd. It just just massive due to over hyped marketing schemes. Diablo 3 is TRASH. have a good day
  • 1 Hide
    jhansonxi , June 23, 2012 7:52 PM
    Gamification can easily be applied to military campaigns. Armed drones already exist so only a more consumer-friendly interface is needed. Targets can be serviced without the typical military logistics overhead. With real-time CGI and video editing, opponent visuals can be adjusted to suit the prejudices of the players so it won't matter if the targets are terrorists, racial minorities, liberals, Tea Party members, or the crack dealers down the street. Players won't know who the actual targets are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmASMpmQJqg
  • 1 Hide
    kcorp2003 , June 23, 2012 8:53 PM
    the extra credits guys did an episode on gamification.

    http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/gamification
  • 1 Hide
    zeratul600 , June 23, 2012 10:40 PM
    if it is like diablo 3 it means that you dont have to work if all the office logs the same day!!! it will crash the office, and since its always online you wont be able to work from your home, even when you have everything you need to do it!!!!
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , June 24, 2012 12:26 AM
    No. Just...No. "Gamification" is just a buzzword to describe manipulation and/or exploitation without having to call it what it is.
    Somewhere there is a borg-like mind looking at earth thinking "they make such excellent drones."
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , June 24, 2012 2:08 AM
    My issue with gamification is the risk of further lowering the ability of the next generation to put in effort into intrinsically rewarding tasks, or to put in effort not expecting immediate gratification.
  • 0 Hide
    dreadlokz , June 24, 2012 2:43 AM
    Im being unfairly exploited! =/
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 24, 2012 2:43 PM
    jtt283 is right on. The problem with existing gamification systems in the enterprise is that they are mind-numbing Pavlovian reward systems -- "push button 10 times and a treat comes out." Simply counting up activities to award badges is easy to game and tells you little about what businesses truly need to learn about how people work together. And they're needlessly competitive in the workplace. A business's competition is well, their competitors, not their employees. All of that is fine, even preferred, when manipulating customers on your public web site, but inside the corporate walls, it's altogether another ball of wax.

    After "playing" with some of these apps on my team of web designers, we set about developing something that took a different tack. What if the reward system was all about incentivizing people to help teammates, develop real skills instead of badges and congratulate each other for accomplishments? Then the system is put in service of supporting the team. We've run it with good results on internal projects, and have just released it to the public. Give it a whirl here: http://propstoyou.com
  • -2 Hide
    freggo , June 25, 2012 1:07 AM
    Well, all of life is a game; only there is no reset button. You loose...you die. GAME OVER :-)
  • 0 Hide
    ibboard , June 25, 2012 8:55 AM
    Give people a metric (like the number of tweets to get a "reward") and they'll game the system as much as playing the game. They'll do just enough on each goal and no more. They'll aim for their goals and the technicalities of what the minimum requirements are at the expense of the real purpose.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 25, 2012 12:39 PM
    @ibboard Unless you incorporate a hidden achievements system which offers high rewards, then put the possible awards up for everyone to see, but all of them left guessing at how to acquire them.

    If the gamification implementor doesn't bring creativity and freshness to the game, it will obviously fail to meet its purpose. Game designers may find some new job openings in their future ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    frank_drebin , June 25, 2012 3:26 PM
    this is the most boring article I've seen in a long time!
  • 0 Hide
    papablista , June 25, 2012 4:22 PM
    Life's a game jump in with both feet, and your controller..
  • 0 Hide
    daverage , June 26, 2012 2:35 PM
    Horrible title to try and introduce a concept that is so deep in its complexity. There is so much more to gamification than " “badges” for bragging rights". Let's not get into the argument about the use of extrinsic rewards to increase intrinsic motivation and the negative effects it can have!

    However, there is a lot here for people to think about. As old as this all may be to some people, the new name and the new found interest is an opportunity to make both enterprise and brands way more interesting and engaging!
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