Gamification refers to the process of using game mechanics in non-game environments, such as a website, online community, learning system, or business intranet to increase participation and engagement. Gamification offers proactive directives and feeback through game mechanics and dynamics to non-game platforms to reward players along the path to accomplishments of given goals and objectives. This is designed to develop a "gamified" experience that encourages users to continue based on their emotions. To do this, most gamification systems offer immediate feedback on performance and guided steps toward new achievements as the user interacts and to keep the user interacting.
Gamification is often used to solve problems, including a range of issues of engagement in workplaces or society at large, such as voter apathy. And the mechanics are applied to increase not only user engagement but also user happiness and loyalty over time. Some problems gamification has been used to solve include the following:
- Learner engagement in workplace training
- Sales staff performance
- Ability to complete chores and mundane tasks
- Performance at the gym
- Organizational productivity
- Ability to enter "flow" states
- Knowledge retention
- Recruitment issues
- Customer retention
The techniques involved in gamification are used to leverage people's desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure, and simplify those responses to the framing situation used in games or play. These strategies reward the player for accomplishing a desired task, and types of rewards can include points, achievement badges, levels, a progress bar, or offering a virtual currency. These rewards are intended to encourage players to compete. The systems can increase in their challenge or add a narrative to increase user engagement. Some examples of game mechanics or techniques used in gamification include the following:
- Goals—Users complete a task and receive a reward, such as a badge or a point.
- Status—Users can increase their level or rank through completing activities; leaderboards can then be used to show who is winning and to inspire others to work harder and compete.
- Community—Users are paired or placed into groups to solve problems, complete activities, or otherwise achieve an objective.
- Education—Tips, tricks, and quizzes can be given to users throughout the process.
- Rewards—Points and badges are common and useful rewards; other rewards can be discounts, coupons, or gift cards, which can increase a user's motivation and keep engagement high.
- "Unlockable" content—Users can unlock a reward, a new level of play, or a superpower, which players can access when achieving something specific.
- Avatars—As a visual representation of the user, avatars can include various levels of complexity but give the user a "game-like" identity and become part of a community.
The benefits of gamification can depend in part on context, but they tend to create more engagement by adopting the act of playing a game daily and using the entertainment value of games to motivate users to accomplish tasks that are normally viewed as boring, such as learning. Other benefits of gamification can include the following:
Especially in adolescence, gamification can aid in cognitive development and increase the brain activity that allows for development. Games produced specifically for enhancing cognitive development, often referred to as "brain games," have become popular and are based on various questions and problems the user has to answer or solve, and which are developed to improve the rate at which the brain processes and maintains information.
Gamification and interactive displays can be effective related to physical activity and exercise programming. Exercising using gamification can be beneficial particularly to younger people, and those who do not enjoy physical education can tie a favorite game to an activity and get youths active. For adults, gamification can offer progress reports and rewards for specific achievements, which can be based on the individual's exercise and physical health goals.
Various studies have measured the level of engagement students display when utilizing gamification in the classroom. The researchers used point systems for various daily class activities, and the students' levels of engagement were measured. These studies found that a game-like atmosphere and using gamification techniques and mechanics increase student engagement in the classroom and increase productivity. Further, studies suggesting gamification can aid in cognitive development suggest that these techniques can improve students' learning.
Gamification can also be used in classrooms to teach students with different cognitive abilities and help reach and teach students of all needs. Scientists have previously studied the benefit of gamification for teaching students diagnosed with autism, to good effect, especially with age-appropriate gamification content.
Gamification offers benefits outside of classrooms and adolescent development, but that tends to be the most heavily studied application of gamification. Gamification can be used to help students learn at home. In the workplace, there are benefits to increasing employee learning and engagement, improving workplace results, and various other benefits based on their application, such as in workplace training or marketing.
Gamification has been successful as it takes advantage of human psychology, but this comes with downsides. Choosing the right mechanisms can be a challenge, and the elements need to be designed to encourage the desired behavior. Whereas poorly designed or implemented gamification can become a distraction from other priorities and encourage people to engage in zero-sum or negative-sum competition against each other, resulting in wasted time and money.
Promising rewards can create an initial draw and support early engagement, but engagement can wane if the rewards are not enough of a motivator. For example, if a health app rewards certain behaviors or frequent usage, the highest achieving users can begin to demand more and higher-level rewards to ensure participation over time. The rewards established in any gamification design have to be sustainable and support users with additional motivation.
Games can also become addictive, and using gamification for commercial purposes can raise the same risk, as developing an addictive compulsion to work or consume a product can be positive for a company but be seen as manipulative and exploitative for workers and consumers. This can raise potential ethical issues.
Gamification has been widely applied in marketing. In 2013, Forbes estimated that over 70 percent of their "Global 2000 Companies" list stated they planned to use gamification for marketing and customer retention. In marketing, gamification uses design elements from games to attract and ultimately retain customers, with customers driven to perform an action due to elements of competition or reward. Some types of gamification marketing include the following:
Transmedia is the practice of taking a media property and extending it into different mediums to expand upon the material or bring greater attention to it. One example of this came in 1997 when Nintendo released the game 007: Goldeneye for the N64 console. This game title was created to bring more attention to the film of the same title's release but ended up making more money than the film itself.
Brandification in its simplest form is in-game advertising for real-world products and services. This could include messages, images, and videos used to promote a brand, product, or service in a video game's world. One example of this came when the popular first-person shooter game Counter-Strike allowed advertisers to include movie posters on the walls of the game. This has extended to companies releasing products virtually in-game.
Advergames are online games that promote a particular brand, product, or marketing message by integrating that element into the game template. These types of games are often developed as a marketing and promotional tool, more than a game itself, with the idea that more interaction with the property through the form of a game leads to better associations. Early popular advergames included Pepsi's Pepsi Man and 7 UP's Spot from the late 1990s. In 2019, snackable mobile games like Candy Crush and Temple Run were re-skinned with company branding and themes to promote their products and services. Advergames have been, over time, proven to generate higher levels of engagement and redemption when compared with traditional advertisements.
Gamification in health and wellness is primarily utilized in applications dealing with disease prevention, self-management, medication adherence, and telehealth programs. Generally, the core of healthcare gamification is patient-centric, with a focus on improving patient engagement and offering more personalized healthcare experiences. Additionally, they can be used to make healthcare, rehabilitation, and physical exercise more fun.
Gamification platforms have been used to help users increase their physical health since 2010, when Nike launched its Nike+ app, which tracked and gamified a user's run time, distance covered, and health parameters and compared them to the user's historical performance and others within a social field. This included a leaderboard, points, and badges and is a classic example of live feedback and micro-measuring progress to help runners improve and progress their personal goals.
Gamification has been proposed for mental health applications, which can help users improve their mood and activate the ventral striatum, which can enhance individuals' general reward responsiveness to positive stimuli and help reduce depressive symptoms. Gamification could, according to some studies, reduce depressive symptoms by increasing engagement with and adherence to mental health apps and work to activate reward-mediated neural pathways that could elicit positive feelings, which could counteract some negative feelings from depression.
Other organizations have used gamification mechanics and techniques to help connect users with others and workout together in groups. For example, one app by Les Mills offers users group classes on stationary bikes with a computer screen with a roller coaster simulation. It tracks the user's score, provides leaderboards, and offers a notification if the user does not show up to class.
Since a majority of students tend to play games at home, particularly video games, it is no surprise that teachers saw a 70 percent increase in student engagement when introducing gamification elements into the classroom, such as using educational video games. For education, gamification refers to a teaching methodology that creates a game-like scenario around the curriculum and the objectives of the course. These games are used to promote student engagement and motivate students to participate in course activities.
There are various examples of popular educational games, with one of the better examples including Minecraft: Education Edition. This game works to teach students how to code through a popular game format, and students enjoy the game mechanics with decent results in learning.
The use of applications in classrooms can also support learning. Educational apps include Duolingo, which helps students with learning different languages, and Read Along by Google, which uses voice technology to encourage kids to read and follow along with stories. Similar to games, apps can make learning more fun for kids than traditional learning.
For the classroom, there are various ways to introduce gamification, such as quizzes, jeopordy-style contests, and gamification mechanics (badges, rewards, leaderboards, etc.) to encourage students to engage and participate in class. Using technology such as smartphones or tablets can increase student participation, allowing them to select or type their answers to in-class questions in real time and allow teachers to interact with the class in a new way.
An eLearning platform allows teachers to develop lesson plans with YouTube links and classroom notes and develop a learning pathway, which can include the addition of gamification strategy in the form of class quizzes, educational video games, mixed media exams, and awarded certificates upon completed courses for an all-around gamification learning experience.
For corporations, continued training of their workforce can be assisted by gamification or gamified systems. This could be as simple as gamified learning modules through intranets or with training personnel, or it could be as sophisticated as an entire app, such as HP Uni. This app was launched to help train sales teams on cybersecurity topics, which offered users the chance to win the HP Security Cup at the conclusion of the learning campaign. Through this, the users earned points by engaging in and winning knowledge battles and could rise in the leaderboard in order to win the cup. The app was popular and engaged learners, allowing them to challenge each other and themselves. And the principle was applied to other parts of learning, where it could be replicated.
Gamification has been used as a tool to drive user engagement in user experience design. This does not mean turning an interface into a game, but rather using gamification to inject fun elements into applications and systems that might otherwise lack immediacy or relevance for users. The design can incentivize users to achieve goals and help overcome negative associations for a system or task the user is required to complete. In some cases, where appropriate, this user interface can include social elements that can increase engagement.
Crowdsourcing refers more to actionable community engagement that can harness the wisdom, contribution, and capabilities of large numbers of people, or a crowd. It has been used to solicit, improve, and address complex virtual and real-world challenges in the areas of innovation and creativity, building accurate and vast knowledge, solving complex multi-layered problems, and achieving complicated feats within a short span of time. Crowdsourcing applications can use a range of gamification principles to implement gamification mechanics and depends on the quality of experience the project seeks to offer based on the goals of the project. Further, it uses core behavioral drives that compel users to work together to solve problems, which can be enhanced through gamification elements.
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