Gamification is the process of implementing game designed elements and techniques into content which is not a game. It may look strange, but it’s scientifically proven that games are a powerful tool to generate more employee’s interest and motivation on the particular task or job. That is 50 years old news, so the concept of ‘’learning through play’’ is supported by not only theoreticians of human behavior but companies and business who have implemented this principle in certain business segments.
PROPERTIES AND ELEMENTS OF GAMIFICATION
There are several ways of implementing gamification principles in a non-game environment or area, but all of them have common elements:
- collecting points for completing tasks
- defining the status of player’s progress
- developing special skills
- badges and awards when certain criteria are met
- the rating scale of participants and their level of success.
The main objectives are defined for every level, and complexity of the challenge for each level jumps as the player progresses in the game. All these elements are part of something bigger which leads to the completion of objectives and goals of the gamified activity. It’s not an uncommon occurrence that gamified content has an option to share or publish achievements through different social media channels to brag about.
The game industry is often perceived as the ‘’industry of positive emotions’’ as they motivate, encourage and inspire players to or be better. Games make us lose the track of time and it’s not unusual for players to feel that time flies faster than usually. One of the most powerful motivators associated with the attractiveness of playing games is the almost instantly visible outcome of player’s actions. According to researchers and scientists playing games stimulates positive energy and emotions. When we’re successful at something we feel useful, inspired and motivated.
But that’s not all. In games, teamwork and collectivism are connected. This suggests that gamification could be a strong bonding material among players and team members. There’s one more important thing. Players (or team members in business) often have a distorted perception of their abilities and skills. It is not uncommon that users can change their perception of themselves by doing something extraordinary or achieving the goal they previously thought that is beyond their capabilities. Games offer detachment from reality, so users or players are encouraged to start again and do better. According to neuroscientists, emotions triggered by games are stimulated by hormones and chemical processes in our body, so our body experiences positive stress. There’s also intrinsic motivation that comes through the pleasure of playing, and rewards which encourage players to be better. Even if they fail at first, players are encouraged to ‘’push the reset button’’ and start again – which sadly in real life does not exist.
GAMIFICATION OF BUSINESS AND MARKETING
If we take a look in the not so distant past, it’s highly unlikely to find game elements or entertainment in the business world. Since the gamification concept proved to be a good way of learning and engaging, some of the world’s largest companies and brands decided to implement it in some of their business segments. That is highly visible in online communications through various communication channels, customer service, and products purchasing.
One of the most representative examples of gamification online is the BoxTrolls page. It’s originally conceived as a promotional page for the movie, but with various content elements which are gamified. It allows exploring different types of content through the storytelling and user interface. This microsite is based on multiple videos, combined with interactive HTML elements and integrated into the canvas tag which gives the overall gamified look & feels and provides special content consumption experience. The whole page has an interactive nature. The main focus is placed on components that encourage users to engage and solve Boxtrolls quest. The homepage offers two possibilities – Boxtroll interactive adventure (based on the gamified content) and exploration of other interactive content connected with the movie. The game itself is a theme designed to promote the characters and plot of the movie. Each level of the game is associated with the background story that is told via animations, characters and other visuals. The design is playful with lots of clickable options to explore. Page navigation is oriented mainly on the Boxtroll game quest, but the balance in content is achieved through other items in the menu. There are movie trailers and features, games and promotional offers which are visually integrated with the movie theme. If you offer them content that will be engaging and interesting and they will consume it.
Implementing gamification principles in business is easy. Every game has the objective, rules, feedback system and voluntary participation. The same is with business. In real life, tasks can get complicated from start to finish and sometimes things do not turn out the way we planned them. On the other hand, games have previously devised challenges which need to be done to fulfill their objectives. Implementing the gamification elements in business can be done by points, badges, trophies or prizes. This process becomes even better when the whole team is involved, because without proper cooperation among team members – tasks can rarely be done. In real life, the consequences of our actions are not instantly visible, and it may take some time to see their effect. In a gamified environment, they can’t go unnoticed because they function on a rewarding system – if some part or challenge is not successfully completed, players usually can’t go to the next level.
Some critics point out that gamification can’t be seriously taken into consideration or applied to reality because the rewards are virtual. Maybe they are, but for a longer period of time, such elements can be indicators of employee evaluation and progress tracking.
HOW DOES IT WORK IN PRACTICE?
In business aspect, it can be turned into a competition. Work is always monitored and employees are rewarded according to their work and accomplishments. Virtual prizes can be transferred to real life and have a meaningful value. Gamification principle also helps to perceive tasks not as a boring job, but as a way to express skills and competence.
When it comes to implementation of gamification in business, it’s most visible in digital marketing on the social media, where gamified content can easily engage the audience. Social networks are a cheap way to establish communication with the targeted audience because people spend there a lot of time. Gamified content can be anything from gifs, interactive graphics, to live stream videos and applications.
One of the most brilliant examples of gamification implementation was actually in software engineering. It happened when Microsoft introduced ‘’language’’ quality game a.k.a software which had the goal to localize product languages, ensuring that translations were accurate. Player’s task was to verify and correct software translations. The solution was to build the application that gives users insight into Microsoft products and rule out poor translations. In reality that was a huge task which demanded several thousand people and significant financial resources. The problem of poor translation was solved with international competition among Microsoft teams around the world. The result was a completed task in just one day. 4500 people participated in this activity and they made over half million corrected or improved translations. Some countries took a company-wide day off to play the game.
Ross Smith, testing director at Microsoft, argues that productivity games are a subset of serious games, and they incorporate using game elements to boost engagement and creativity of otherwise dull or uninteresting tasks. Mozilla Firefox also took the chances with gamification principle – the results were the same. They managed to solve 20,000 bug reports with gamification principle among developers and contributors community.
Probably the most epic usage of gamification elements and principles was conducted in 2009. in the UK by The Guardian. It’s connected with the scandal of improper public funds spending. After the British government released nearly half a million documents containing the expenses submitted by Members of Parliament, Guardian created an online platform and encouraged readers to investigate all the documents, and mark them as ‘’ok’’, ‘’suspicious’’, or ‘’definitely need to be checked’’. The result was an explosion of online public engagement and opinion. Financial means used for this operation were 15 Guardian’s people and 50 pounds for platform software. In first 80 hours of the operations, 170,000 documents were reviewed, and the government launched the full investigation into MP expenses. The investigation showed over 1 million pounds of improperly spent funds and many MP’s stood a trial for fraud.
As well as is the case with other unusual concepts, experts from different areas are divided on their opinion about gamification. Some say it is a necessary evil because it’s based on games and having fun while doing serious stuff. Others say that a gamification is a new approach that can be used almost anywhere – from education, free time, business, marketing to health and fitness. In online sphere which is saturated by loads of content, users do not pay attention to the vast majority of things they see. Unless it’s fun, engaging and there is an opportunity for them to explore new things. Also, an essential component of gamification is the fact that it can blur the line between a task or mandatory obligation and fun. If there is a bit of fun – the job can be done in an easier way. If you’re not a fun loving person and you don’t want to mix business and fun, maybe the gamification isn’t for you..but it’s for sure the right approach for engaging your customers and audience online.