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Level Up: Understanding the Meaning of Gamification

Many of us enjoy playing games to unwind or for entertainment. But what if we could make laboring or typically tiresome activities more engaging and enjoyable? That’s where gamification comes in. Gamification is a concept that applies game elements and principles to non-game contexts, such as education, business, or health. The aim of gamification is to improve user engagement, motivation, and enjoyment in performing specific activities. Although gamification is not a new phenomenon, it has become increasingly popular and relevant in the current digital era. 

The Origin of Gamification 

Gamification, essentially, has been around for a long time. However, the term “gamification” is relatively new. It was first coined by Nick Pelling, a consultant and software developer from the United Kingdom in 2002. He described gamification as the process of applying game elements. He founded a consulting company called Conundra Ltd, specializing in implementing game-like user interface design on electronic devices and software. He defined gamification as “applying accelerated user interface design as in games to make electronic transactions more fun and fast.” 

 

Nick Pelling used this term to describe his idea of creating interfaces similar to ATMs and vending machines, hoping that these interfaces would be more enjoyable and user-friendly. He also envisioned that gamification could be applied to other domains, such as education, entertainment, or social networking. However, his concept did not receive much attention or acceptance at the time, and he moved on from it after a few years. Nevertheless, his idea was one of the first attempts to apply game elements to non-game contexts and how it affected subsequent gamification projects. One successful example of gamification is Bunchball, a gamification company founded in 2005. Bunchball’s flagship product, Dunder Mifflin Infinity, was a gamified social network based on the TV show The Office. Launched in 2007, it attracted over 8 million users in its first year. The product used game elements such as badges, currency, customization, and competition to engage users and increase their loyalty to the show. Users could earn points by watching episodes, completing quizzes, uploading photos, or participating in challenges. They could also use their points to purchase virtual goods or join teams based on their favorite characters. Dunder Mifflin Infinity was a fully gamified online platform that demonstrated the power and potential of gamification for entertainment and marketing purposes. 

 

Another notable example is Chore Wars, a gamified platform launched in 2007 by Kevan Davis. Chore Wars aimed to persuade people to do their household chores by making it enjoyable and rewarding. The platform used fantasy themes and game mechanics such as points, gold coins, battles, and rewards to make household chores seem like missions or adventures akin to World of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons. Users could create their own characters and join groups with friends or family members. They could also track their household chores and earn points and rewards for completing them. They could compete with other users or groups for the highest score or most completed tasks. Chore Wars is an application that attempted to motivate routine or mundane tasks by adding elements of fun and fantasy. This platform also inspired similar applications that sought to gamify other aspects of life, such as fitness, health, productivity, or learning. 

 

One of the most influential advocates of gamification for social change is Jane McGonigal, a game designer and researcher. She delivered a TED talk in 2010 titled “Gaming Can Make a Better World” and published a book in 2011 titled “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” She argued that gamers could use their skills and motivation to solve real-world problems if presented as a game. 

Jane argued that video games offer people a sense of purpose, challenge, feedback, and collaboration that the real world often lacks. She also cited various examples of gamified platforms or initiatives that aim to educate or persuade people on topics such as politics, the environment, and health. Some of these examples include Evoke, a game that motivates players to generate innovative solutions for global problems; SuperBetter, a game that assists players in overcoming personal challenges such as depression or illness; and Foldit, a game that empowers players to contribute to scientific research by folding proteins. 

What is Gamification? 

 

From its origin, we can conclude that gamification can be simply defined as the use of game design elements and game principles in a non-game context. For example, principles and themes in games such as earning virtual points or other currencies, and completing a series of tasks or activities to level up, can be used in contexts other than games to provide enjoyment and stimulation for users. 

Common game elements used in gamification include: 

 

  • Points, badges, levels, or virtual currencies that can be obtained as a form of achievement or reward 
  • Leaderboards, rankings, or statistics showing the user’s performance or progress compared to other users 
  • Challenges, missions, or goals that users must complete with varying levels of difficulty 
  • Feedback, cues, or rewards given to users to provide information about their progress or results 
  • Avatars, characters, or profiles that can be customized by users to represent themselves 
  • Story, narrative, or theme that connects the activities performed by users 

 

Gamification can also be defined as a set of activities and processes for solving problems using the characteristic elements of games. Thus, gamification involves not only the visual or aesthetic aspects of games but also the cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of games. 

Why is Gamification Important? 

 

Gamification is not just a trend but an effective and powerful way to enhance learning, motivation, engagement, and performance. Gamification is based on the principles of human psychology, game design, and behavioral economics and can be applied to various domains and contexts. Whether you want to create gamification for education, work, health, or your personal life, there are gamification solutions that can help you achieve your goals and have fun along the way. 

If you are interested in learning more about gamification and how it can benefit you or your organization

Check out our gamification services page and contact us today. We are ready to help you create a gamification experience that aligns with your needs and preferences.  

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