Heading Toward Gamification Nation

Gamification, the use of game design techniques to solve problems, motivate and engage people, is poised to become a leading digital marketing trend, according to brand consultancy Millward Brown. Although at present, gamification is largely driven by novelty and hype, Gartner forecasts that by 2014, 70+% of major companies will have at least one “gamified” application.

Gamification is set to take off with aspects like points, level progression, badges, achievements, virtual currency and puzzles that entertain consumers. However, crude forms of gamification -- closed-badge systems like Foursquare badges and points-based reward schemes -- are likely to fall from favor as social competitions and collaborative programs become key.  Multi-player, multi-brand, multi-channel real-life game systems, where friends combine purchasing habits to unlock branded benefits, show the most potential.

Game hype becoming reality
Typically gamification applies to non-game websites and applications designed to encourage users to adopt desired behaviors, by following a path to “mastery” that takes advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to play.



Gamification can also encourage people to perform chores they ordinarily consider boring, like surveys, shopping, filling tax forms, or reading web sites. One of the largest IM clients, the Chinese TenCent, applies gamification to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behavior, but it needs to be implemented thoughtfully,” said Brian Burke, research vice president, Gartner. “Most attempts …currently miss the mark, but successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy.”

At it heart, game theory is a method for analyzing calculated circumstances where a person’s success is based upon choices. Gamification is the use of game design dynamics to solve problems and engage people in non-game activities.

Game theory in advertising/marketing/public relations campaigns begins with motivation. Incentives trigger people’s interest in playing the game. Motivations drive actions that are fulfilled by fun challenges, elevation of one’s social status, recognition from peers, feedback from the community, etc. Rewards give customers (players) a sense of achievement, which motivates them to stay interested in the game. When considering gamification-based marketing, remember these rules:

Many video games tell a story as people work their way through a series of challenges. Content marketing can create a script to pique consumer interest and maintain it as the story unfolds.

Tackling a challenge creates a sense of accomplishment that maintains engagement. Gamification projects should tie back to rewards and achievements that become increasingly difficult to obtain. To keep people coming back, include both short-term and long-term goals.

Rewards should match levels of difficulty so users gain a sense of mastery. Incentives can have monetary value, but non-monetary rewards –exclusive information, access or acknowledgment– are also potent.

Leaderboards displaying status provide a recognition mechanism, while also ranking prospective leads when coupled to an automated analytics platform that supports the reward system.

The problem with solitaire, even if you win, –it only proves you conquered a deck of cards. Social interaction is a key component of gamification. Players (customers) should connect and share their experience with their circle.

Stuck in the Hype-Cycle
Much hype still surrounds gamification; the very term itself lacks the seriousness it deserves.  Originating in the video game industry, many pioneering game concepts play a key role in driving behavior management for brands in the consumer world.

As companies increasingly turn to gamification to accomplish goals beyond mere game play, gamification, or the use of game concepts to engage users, can be a powerful way to create happiness and drive innovation. With science rapidly unraveling the way our brains are wired to progress through a process toward mastery –including incentives, challenges, achievements and feedback– tying into those mechanics taps into our desire for self-actualization and esteem.

Gamification may even pose a challenge to Facebook, eBay or Amazon as global organizations deploy gamified applications. As IT leaders explore opportunities to increase engagement with customers and employees, an understanding of how game mechanics can motivate positive behavioral change will be critical to their success.

1 comment about "Heading Toward Gamification Nation".
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  1. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, December 21, 2011 at 4:57 p.m.

    Len, thanks for this cogent, well-written introduction to gamification, and its influence of the future of social media. Great points, all. I would like to amplify one point: that games are a terrific way to incite followers to spread content, not just their scores. They are truly a great way to add the "social" aspect to social media.

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