Gamification 2 Years On: what is it now, why is it still important?
A Long, Long Time Ago
Just over 2 years ago, I posted an article called “What is Gamification and Why is it Important?”
I rediscovered it the other day and it seemed like an appropriate time to reassess my words there. Things have moved on since 2011 in the world of gamification, as has my understanding of it. The majority of the article is actually terrible and all stuff that now, for the most part, I don’t agree with! However, there was one bit that stuck out!
At the time, I defined gamification like this;
“Basically it is making a task more interesting by adopting gaming mechanics. At its simplest all that means is, you get some kind of reward for doing a task.”
Interestingly, this is actually not all that far from how I define gamification now, I just didn’t have the same vocabulary as I do now. If you look at that definition, whilst seemingly very simplistic, it actually covers the main concepts that I still talking about.
“The use of game elements and thinking to motivate, engage and change behaviour.”
What I was surprised by was the next sentence I wrote;
“Now, that reward may be as obvious a trophy or as vague as just having fun whilst doing the task.”
I didn’t realise it then, but I was actually differentiating between Intrinsic an extrinsic rewards / motivation!
What is Gamification Now?
So, 2 years down the line, what does gamification mean to me and why is it still important?
As my understanding of gamification and behaviour has evolved, so has my way of thinking about it all. Originally I looked at it through the lens of a developer, everything was about the system – not the user. I was thinking purely of what you had to add to a system to make it gamified. Now, I look at it in a much broader sense, there are many things that have to come together to make gamification work! (Cue a picture!!)
This image is very simple and in no way a complete picture, but it gives an idea of where I see gamification now. A convergence of technology (in many cases), game elements and behavioural psychology. You will notice two words there that may raise an eyebrow. The first is fun. Fun is hard to define, but I still think that we should strive to have it in our minds when designing systems! The other is compliance. This sounds a little Borg like, a bit overbearing. However, it is not meant to mean “You will comply or die”. The idea is that most gamified experiences are gamified to try and get the user to change something or do something. It could be getting fit, reading policies, answering questions – whatever it may be. The point is, you are hoping that people will comply with what you are asking of them in your system. If you want to change their behaviour so that they do more exercise, they must comply with rules that are set in place. Reading a policy is compliance with the need for them to read it etc.
Why is it important – still?
This has not really changed from when I first started writing about gamification, I just didn’t see the depth at the time!
Here is what I wrote;
“And that is why it could be so important. From simply making people in an office enjoy their job more and thus become more productive, to using small repetitive actions in a game to automate real world tasks, Gamification has some real potential!”
That is just one small part of the true importance of gamification. Gamification has the ability not just to make small repetitive tasks more bearable. It can drive innovation, help people share knowledge, create better methods of learning, solve problems in a fraction of the time that traditional methods did, getting fit, eating better and so much more!
It is important because it can improve things for employees, users, buyers, sellers, learners, teachers – pretty much anyone and everyone.
Things have moved on in the last 2 years, but one thing is still the same. Gamification is here, it is going to stay (in one form or another) and it is going to continue to be important, more so now than ever before!