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Gamifi-what? What The Strange Word ‘Gamification’ Really Means

Lenka Istvanova

by Lenka Istvanova on 24th January 2013

you winGamification isn’t a brand new concept and has been around for quite a while now. I’m pretty sure you have heard of it; however for those who haven’t, you’re not alone. Research conducted by Upstream in 2012 revealed a worrying fact; two-thirds of marketers don’t know what the term gamification really means.

Kevin Werbach, my gamification course tutor and co-author of the popular gamification book, defines the term as “the use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game context.”

If you’re still wondering, Gabe Zicherman, gamification guru and the chair of GSummit puts it as follows:

“Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems.”

Many people still get it wrong and often misinterpret this term, thinking that gamification is all about creating a game out of everything we do. This isn’t true; you won’t be in some virtual world playing games and once you win (or lose) you will come back to your normal, real life. The core purpose of gamification is to enhance the experience you’re having with the help of game elements. In a business context, it’s about learning from games and incorporating gaming elements into any customer interaction and/or internal training processes.

Why should you pay attention to gamification?

If you are still not convinced and think that your business will never need to gamify, think again. Take a look at the workforce; people born between the early 80s and mid-90s, the ‘Generation Y’( also called Millennials) already make up almost a quarter of the working population. According to MTV research, Millennials have a ‘game-like’ mentality and this metaphor applies to every aspect of their life, including work experience. Flexibility, work/life balance, forward-thinking company culture, social and a fun workplace are the key factors for Gen Y when it comes to employer selection. Therefore, adapting to these values will be important for companies to motivate and retain Gen Y workers. Gamification has already been embraced by many companies such as Microsoft, Deloitte, or Dell to reflect Millennials values.

Here’s a great Whitepaper that looks at Gamification and the Gen Y issues.

Gamification is certainly becoming the next big thing, especially in the business environment. Of course, you shouldn’t follow something just because it’s a hot trend. However, many large and well-established companies are starting to employ this emerging business practice into their daily activities. The gamification market is growing and it’s reported that by 2018, more than 80% of Global 2000 companies will apply some form of gamification.

Who is gamifying and how?

As I mentioned earlier, gamification is not new and many big, as well as small companies, have been trying to incorporate this concept into their marketing activities.

Microsoft – Language Quality Game

A typical and often cited example is Microsoft’s Language Quality Game. It takes a great  amount of time and resources for Microsoft to develop complex software, such as Windows and Office and then translate it to every major language. To ensure quality, a testing phase plays a crucial part in the whole process. However, automated testing systems can’t spot all the errors and a large group of people are needed to review and test every feature and dialog window in every language.

Success targetRoss Smith from Microsoft came up with the genius solution and gamified the software testing process. Microsoft employees from all around the world were invited to participate in the game where their role was to test Windows 7 dialog boxes in their language and check if everything was correct. The players were awarded points for every bug they found and leader boards tracked the performance of individual players, as well as countries.

You may think that checking dialog boxes isn’t much fun and it may actually be a very boring task, however Microsoft set into a game-like platform and the results speak for themselves:

  • 4,500 Microsoft employees took part in the game with no remuneration (yes, they didn’t get paid for participating)
  • They tested over half a million dialog boxes and reported 6,700 bugs
  • Hundreds of issues were successfully fixed

The Microsoft case showed that solving business problems through games can be very effective; in fact internal gamification can enhance productivity and improve the quality of products.

Nike – Nike Plus Running

Nike Plus (Nike+) is an excellent example of external gamification where players are customers and not employees. We all know the benefits of regular physical activity, but lack of motivation makes it harder for us to get up and get moving every day.

Nike deeply understands this and so they turned the knowledge into a successful gamified product which overcomes the lack of players’ motivation by providing them with instant feedback.

Nike came up with a device that tracks every step you make when you’re running. This small equipment fits perfectly in the sole of your Nike running shoe and therefore you can easily find out how many miles, how long and how fast you’ve run. So far nothing ground-breaking, right?! Nike brought the experience of running to the next level by making it more game-like. They not only built the device itself, but they developed a whole platform around it. You can connect the device to a PC, log your runs and see a complete overview of your running activity. The most interesting part is that you can set yourself goals and challenges and once you accomplish them, you will get rewarded with a trophy or a medal. You can also compete against your friends or check how you’re doing against the Nike running community (see the images below).

nike plus application

All these extra features give you an instant feedback, which in turn makes running more like a game, helping you to stay motivated and encouraged. And the results? Millions of active users or raving fans (including myself!) not only participate and sync their runs every day, but also purchase more and more Nike products.

L’Oreal – Reveal Business Game

Gamification is also being adopted by the HR industry. A well-known cosmetics giant, L’Oreal has gamified its recruitment process and developed a game called Reveal. The game is designed to provide a full insight into how L’Oreal works and helps the participants determine what professional path to take. Throughout the whole game, players collect points from taking different units and the few with the highest score have a chance to be selected by L’Oreal recruiters or win a trip to Paris.

L'Oreal Game: Reveal

I’ve only scratched the surface of the gamification subject. If you would like to learn more about this new paradigm, I recommend having a look at Kevin Werbach’s book, For The Win: How game thinking can revolutionize your business. I will be looking further into game elements and how you can use them in your business in my upcoming blog posts, so watch this space.

Image Credits

Win from BigStock

Success target from BigStock

Lenka Istvanova

Lenka Istvanova

Lenka is a Digital Marketing enthusiast with hands-on experience in Social Media, Website Management and Email Marketing. She has a strong passion for all things digital and is currently studying towards a CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing.

1 Comment

  • Chaz Green 10th March 2013

    Gamification as both your teacher and Gabe Zicherman describe is dead. Gartner reports that 80% of current gamification integrations will fail by 2014. Why? Poor design. This means that the current thinking that defines gamification does not work. Maybe “Meaningful Gamification” is the answer.

    Microsoft – this data means nothing as the “employees” not being “remunerated” were paid employees and would have participated regardless with the same results.

    Nike – keeping stats of your athletic achievements has nothing to do with games or game mechanics. Not gamification. Remember the current definition.

    L’Oreal – A game to encourage people to interact with their brand is not gamification. A full blow game is not “the use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game context.”

    Bottom line? Gamification is a failure and has a negative ROI.

    Reply to this comment

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