You’ve just levelled up. You’ve won another badge. You’ve found the key, upgraded from a knife to a sword, and beaten the level boss – wow!
This is the process that makes you want to keep playing video games; and it’s also what’s made the world of business start to recognise what they can learn from game designers.
What is gamification?
Gamification is about applying the reward-system elements of game design to non-gaming situations. It can incentivise people to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily feel motivated to do by using gameplay rewards such as points, badges, virtual currency, levels and leaderboards.
This goal-reward process can be applied in contexts ranging from classrooms, to offices, to shops.
And why does it work?
The structure of a game has a clear goal and reward system. You achieve a new high score, gain points, or unlock a new character. And each time you complete one of these goals, this triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that influences the brain’s reward and pleasures centres. Dopamine both enables us to see rewards, and motivates us to take action to secure them.
In other words, video games are structured to make us happy because they motivate us to earn rewards.
Outside of a gaming context, turning a boring or difficult task into a compelling game can motivate people to want to complete it.
Some examples of gamification
A number of businesses are already using gamification in some really cool ways. Here are just a few examples…
Google engineers can now spend “Goobles” on server time, or use it to bet on a company-wide predictions market. IBM created a game that has its players running whole cities. Both L’Oreal and the U.S. Army have used games as part of their recruitment processes. Microsoft released the game Ribbon Hero to teach users how to better use their Office suite.
Some organisations are even using these tactics to engage people with serious social and human rights issues – PolitiFact teamed up with a game designer to make the game PoliTruth, which uses a scoring system to encourage people to check their facts in an age of fake news and misinformation. And the Pierce County Library used gamification as part of their literacy programme to help encourage teenagers to read more over their summer holidays.
And how is this going to be relevant in future?
The next generation of business leaders, employees, and customers will all have been playing computer games since their childhood. And when you think that on top of this, new technologies like VR, AR and AI are all emerging from the computer games industry, it seems unlikely that gamification is going to become less relevant in future.
Want to know more?
If you’re interested in learning more about how game design can be used outside of the computer games context, an extensive list of gamification concepts listed out in this article.
Let us know if you’ve used gamification strategies for your business!