Gamification: – Walkthrough any public area and you’ll see people glued to their phones, playing mobile games like Game of War and Candy Crush Saga. They aren’t alone. But this isn’t an article about video games. It’s about where innovative organizations are applying the techniques that make those games so powerfully engaging: everywhere else.
Gamification is the perhaps-unfortunate name for the growing practice of applying structural elements, design patterns, and psychological insights from game design to business, education, health, marketing, crowdsourcing and other fields. Over the past four years, gamification has gone through a cycle of (over-)hype and (overblown) disappointment common for technological trends. Yet if you look carefully, you’ll see it everywhere.
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Gamification works because our responses to games are deeply hard-wired into our psychology. Game design techniques can activate our innate desires to recognize patterns, solve puzzles, master challenges, collaborate with others, and be in the drivers’ seat when experiencing the world around us. They can also create a safe space for experimentation and learning. After all, why not try something new when you know that even if you fail, you’ll get another life.
Shallow gamification can even be harmful, if it’s used to manipulate people towards results that aren’t truly in their interest, or if it suggests that rewards are the only reason to do otherwise intrinsically engaging activities.The systems that avoid these pitfalls take games seriously. In a good game, the points and the leaderboards aren’t what really matter; the true reward is the journey. Gamification systems that emphasize progression, provide well designed informational feedback, and look for ways to surprise and delight their players can remain engaging for the long haul.
It’s still early in the development of gamification as a business practice. In the next stage, expect gamification features to be incorporated more consistently into software and content platforms, the way social media capabilities are today.
And look for systems to take advantage of the wealth of behavioral data from user interactions to refine their effectiveness, as online games have done for years. The next person you see glued to their phone or their computer screen just might be learning or doing their job.
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