Gamification: what you should know (guest post)

Game OnWhile only some of you may have heard about gamification most of you will have experienced it on the websites and social media platforms you use. Being able to see your followers and those of others on Twitter is a form of gamification. We think that understanding this new concept and how it can be applied, is increasingly important to your business.

Victor ManriqueWe have been lucky enough to get a real expert on gamification to shed some light on this important area. Victor Manrique is 22 years old and founder of the website Cluers. This spanish language site gathers feedback from customers on top brands, mainly through 'gamification' techniques – offering badges, levels and league tables based on site activity. Victor also runs the Epic Win Blog discussing all things gamification. Not bad for someone still completing his studies at university.

What is gamification?

There are many definitions for gamification and there's been a lot of research about this subject but put simply

“Gamification is the use of game elements in a non-gaming context to achieve a goal”

If we use the metaphor of a car. The vehicle has many elements to it; one of them is its wheels. Now take one of those wheels to make a swing for your kids and that's gamification. What was the goal? To make your kids happy and have fun of course. Gamification is not the same as game design as this post Gamification and Serious Games by my friend Andrzej Marzcewski (@daverage) explains.

Playing = happiness but don't just take my word for it

Think for a moment how you feel when making the perfect shot in Angry Birds or to get through that difficult level in Plants vs Zombies? And what about helping your friends with some lives in Candy Crush saga?

Games are a source of happiness and motivation and are related to the basic well-being elements identified by Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Flourish and to the key human motivators described by the extended Self-Determination Theory of Deci and Ryan.

What research tells us is that games are a powerful source of well-being; through their MDAs (Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics) they make us feel and experience positive emotions, engagement, social contact, and a meaningful purpose.

Games are fun and they motivate us intrinsically and extrinsically (through rewards, levels, grades). They generate happiness as shown by the amount of people worldwide who have joined

the gaming revolution. I write more about the link between happiness, motivation and games in Playing to happiness.

But why use Gamification?

Put plainly you should use Gamification because it will help you to achieve your business objectives. This is important if you consider that engaging and energising your customers isn't getting any easier – customers have better things to do than being part of your latest company campaign. Moreover, the traditional approaches to rewards and incentives do little to motivate your customer base.

It is not surprising that companies are starting to create games around a whole-range of non-game areas, as the examples below illustrate:

  • Foursquare: the company started with a new set of gamification ideas after the failure of its former founder's trial. They failed to achieve a critical mass but gamification solved this issue by engaging users through points, badges and leaderboards (PBL). The site has evolved but it still relies on these kind of MDAs for its success.
  • Nike+: Nike wanted to introduce their branded products into the running market in a more effective and powerful way. Through the launch of Nike+, a system of game MDAs around running were created (including Apps, fuel bands and watches). It has helped establish Nike as a leader in this area.
  • Line: The app which provides video and voice calls was one of the biggest success stories of 2012. A serious competitor to Whatsapp. How did they achieve their success? A great part of it is the use of stickers “So many popular and attractive stickers at the Sticker Shop! Try using them with your friends!”. Users were reminded of their childhood, collecting cards and stickers. Great approach.
  • Samsung Nation: Samsung has created a gamified loyalty programme of badges, levels and league tables which users unlock “by visiting, reviewing products, watching videos, participating in user-generated Q&As, etc.” Samsung Nation is the first gamified corporate website.

You can read about more reasons to use gamification here.

Not a panacea…

Gamification is not a panacea and we would recommend against its use in the following instances:

  • If there is no clear reason to start the task and no meaningful goal to accomplish
  • If the motivation exists already to do the task
  • If we are dealing with unethical /amoral issues

For more information see this post on the subject. 

I hope I have helped you to better understand the world of gamification. I would be very glad to answer any questions or discuss any aspects raised. I can be contacted through comments on the Energise Blog.

As they say – Game ON!

(Thanks Victor! – Alan)


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