Gamification, what is it?
In 2001, a student named John Hopson, who later went on to become a senior developer at game development studio Bungy, discussed how the future of video gaming would be to ensure that users became ‘hooked’. Using gamification and behavioral science techniques Hopson discussed the best ways to keep gamers interested in games from a psychological point of view. Gamification has become the end product of this behavioral psychology approach and has since been used by video game companies to encourage gamers to keep playing video games.
Gamification revolves around making a typically tedious task more entertaining and exciting through the use of game elements. The practice of gamification has been taken up by businesses hoping to strengthen customer interest and product sales, schools and universities looking to improve learning and even exercise and fitness bodies to improve user engagement with physical activity and fitness. Gamification has proven to be very successful, hence why industries which have no connection with video games are using it as a tool to attract customer/user engagement through the promise of progression and rewards.
Gamification is not a given simply with the use of technology. It must be implemented in a certain way or it will fail its duty. The player or participant needs to feel like they are in the center of the game, like they are in charge of their own destiny. This can be achieved by allowing players to progress in their own way and time and by ensuring that they can choose their own rewards. There also needs to be a strong difference between progress and rewards. The progress needs to be both fun as well as encouraging. Having the option of being able to share one’s progress with friends has proven to be an important part of successful gamification. Being able to share progress and rewards via social media is something that people enjoy doing.
Finally, gamification cannot be too challenging nor can it be too easy for its target market. If the gamification is not at the perfect level, then it will not have the desired result. If the gamification is too difficult then the user will feel demotivated. Too easy and the user will quickly get bored by the achievements as he/she will not have to work hard in order to unlock them. The balance of gamification has to be perfect in order for it to fulfill its purpose which in turn will ensure that audience participation will be influenced to its optimal level.
Physical Fitness and Health
Exercise and being physically active is of course a vital part of staying healthy. Unfortunately, attending the gym or going for an evening jog after work can be extremely tiresome, expensive or just plain dull. Rightly or wrongly, it is sometimes difficult for people to get into the habit of exercising regularly whilst it is even harder for us to treat exercise as a lifestyle choice, especially given the demands of the 21st century – long work hours and a stressful family life are often cited as reasons why people skip regular exercise. However, gamification is helping those of us who do want to become more physically active but don’t necessarily have the time or passion to partake as often as they would like.
Some of the first mobile phone applications introduced dietary and exercise logs for people. Users were able to keep track of their dietary intake in an easy to use way, whilst they were also reminded when to exercise with the apps recording how much exercise was completed and how many calories were burned.
Apps’ have of course evolved since then. These days some apps can be like our very own personal trainer. Not only do they keep records of our diet and fitness plan, they also recommend a fitness workout and diet plan depending on your height, weight, body shape and lifestyle. The app will ensure that it sets you daily, weekly and monthly goals for you to hit. There are now progression paths and scoreboards. Friends can even connect their apps together in order to compete against each other. If you have a young child and unable to leave the house, exercise apps will be able to give you workouts that can be done in your home. Alternatively, they can connect with your online maps application and plan routes for you to run.
Apps motivational push notifications and sharp and swanky progress charts give users a sense of accomplishment seeing how far they’ve progressed over time. Users are also able to customize their profiles and charts as well as monitor personal goals. Gamification has certainly made fitness and exercise more fun.
Although borne from video games, gamification is now more often than not discussed when it applies to contexts outside of the video gaming world. However, there are uncountable successful examples of gamification still within video gaming. Although gamification is often being used in order to make video games as addictive as possible by some gaming companies it is also being used for slightly less malevolent purposes. Game distribution platforms such as Steam use gamification in order to encourage users to interact with each other over the platforms social interaction model.
Playing certain games will earn the user Steam cards. If a user manages to gain a ‘full series of certain cards, then they will be rewarded with in game modifications and discounts. These cards can also be traded between players. Steam also has in-game achievements on all of its games. When players earn these achievements it encourages them to carry on playing in order to achieve further ones.
Further examples can be found within the iGaming industry. Online casinos usually offer games which are the same across most online casino sites, consequently gamification is needed to ensure player loyalty to one particular casino. A variety of the newer online casinos now use gamification in order to offer players rewards schemes for player certain games on their sites. Free spins and other bonuses are awarded if a user plays a certain game a certain number of times or if he/she plays a combination of games for a set amount of time. These rewards are fantastic incentives for players to keep playing as they are given free items for doing so. At the same time, the competition between casinos means that players are rewarded for their loyalty. It is a win-win situation for both the players and online casinos thanks to gamification.
The idea of offering discounts to customers is certainly nothing new. This idea can be dated back decades if not centuries. Book sales companies such as Waterstones allow customers to gain rewards with every purchase they make over a certain amount of money via their Waterstones app. Waterstones are having an extremely hard time competing with online commerce companies such as Amazon, it is therefore imperative that Waterstones offer customers an incentive to shop with them rather than elsewhere.
With the Waterstones app, customers are able to check, redeem and spend their points. The principle of the Waterstones stamp and save system is that customers earn one stamp for every £10/$12 they spend at a Waterstones retailer, and after ten stamps are collected the customer will earn a free £10/$12 to spend in store. Transactions between £5.00 and £9.99 ($6.00 and $11.99) are awarded with half a stamp.
All customers have to do is show their app to the cashier in store in order for their stamps to be processed. The same system applies to online purchases. This means that customers have an incentive for shopping at Waterstones as if they remain loyal to the brand, they will be rewarded.
Make it Natural
Overall, gamification should not look like it has been specifically applied in order to ‘hook’ a person – which is how it has been applied in some fields. It should look like it has come absolutely naturally with the intention of optimizing user/customer experience. This means it has to be created with the intent for creativity, innovation and user enjoyment. Gamification is now used within many walks of life although there is still a lot of room for improvement. Especially in terms of how to ensure the value of gamification is maximum to its highest possible level.