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Gamification is not exactly a household word just yet, but awareness of the discipline is growing as more organisations get it right and experience the benefits of a human-focused solution to making business work better.  Are you ready?  Got questions? We’re here to help.

Gamification sounds like a pretty lightweight solution to serious business challenges. Why do I want my employees playing games at work?

OK, let’s take this from the top.

Gamification is not a game in the Candy Crush, idle amusement sense of the word. It’s game-like in form and function, but very much a serious business solution that works to engage people in the task at hand and motivate business-focused behaviours. And have fun doing it. Translated – gamification is a way to up your contact centre response times, drive sales numbers or prompt training and development.

At Playa, we define gamification as, “Design that motivates people toward specific behaviour change. It’s motivational design”.

Yes, good gamification borrows much from the best video game design practices (and that’s no lightweight benchmark for engagement and motivation) but also draws on behavioural science theories to tap the range of emotional needs that drive us all. It’s about creating fun human experiences that lead to better business.

1. How can I actually apply gamification in my business?

Any business activity that involves learning, that is, acquiring new skills, knowledge or behaviour, can be made more effective with gamification. Narrowly repetitive tasks are boring by design, they just are, and gamification can’t make them interesting. People become proficient at one task, end of story.

Gamification is about challenging people to become better at what they do and how they do it, through game-like experiences that promote and reward success. There are many ways to put gamification to work. Tap the competitive nature of sales and channel teams by gamifying activities like product training, cross-selling, meeting targets and cold calling.

  • Enrich your loyalty program with competitions, challenges and game elements that support deeper customer engagement.
  • Help your contact centre agents stay engaged and motivated to deliver consistently excellent service.
  • Boost the effectiveness of HR management. Gamify participation in your health and wellness platform and integrate game elements into your existing learning platform.

2. Can I get management information from a gamified system?

Data is the life blood of gamification – it’s the feedback loops that move players from one challenge to the next, it’s real-time leaderboard rankings, it’s the central element of the whole behaviour-reward ecosystem that is gamification. In fact, one definition of gamification is “motivating people through data”.

You can get all the information you need. Just take individual/team/department performance profiles from your gamification stats, pull in data from Human Resources or Learning and Development, or whatever business division you want and get a multi-dimensional view of performance. Consolidated. All on one dashboard. No hassle.

3. How do I know if I’m getting my gamification design right?  

If you’re even thinking about design you’re already on the right track. Well done! Too many gamification efforts fizzle out for lack of a solid design foundation.  Here are the basics for getting it right:

  • Define your business objective. Spell it out. What do you ultimately want to achieve, what specific behaviours will move you closer to the goal and how you will measure success?
  • Know your players. Are you designing for customers, channel partners or employees? Get a ‘whole-person’ perspective and deep understanding of your players.
  • Design an engaging journey. People will start at different skill levels, so make the player path challenging, unpredictable, fun and rich with personal choice.
  • Be creative with your reward strategy. Aim to strike a balance between monetary and non-monetary, intrinsic and extrinsic, timing and presentation. Experts’ advice can help.
  • Test, test and test again. Don’t even think about going live before you’ve nailed every detail and tested repeatedly.

4. I’ve heard points, badges and leaderboards referred to as gamification ‘mechanics’. What are mechanics?  

Gamification mechanics are basically the design elements that form the central framework of an individual player’s experience. They put the ‘game’ in gamification. Artfully employed, mechanics generate a spark of motivation and peak the desire to move forward on the journey.

Fast feedback, for example is a mechanic that works on our intrinsic need for mastery and progress. You encounter an obstacle and choose a solution. A pop-up appears to tell you that you’ve got it right (great work, keep going) or wrong (back up, try again).  Either way, the experience motivates your next move.

Points, badges and leaderboards are among the most widely used and abused mechanics in games and gamified applications.  In the right design hands, they can be used to give meaning, context and personal relevance to gamified activities.

5. Does gamification work with all age-groups?

Gamification is motivational design, based in human-centred design principles and concerned with appealing to the uniquely human inner drives and emotions that influence our decisions and behaviour.  There’s no age restriction on basic human motivation, so yes, good gamification design is effective across generations.

6. Can gamification boost creativity?

If that’s your business objective, gamification offers the tools to tap the collective creativity of your entire company to solve problems, develop new products or find new and better ways to operate. Gamification supports the creative process by providing a safe space for learning, experimenting, failing and persevering.

Gamification expert Gabe Zichermann has an interesting view on how gamification is changing the way we create. Watch his talk at TEDxVilnius on The Future of Creativity and Innovation.


7. Does gamification have any serious, real-life applications outside of business?

Oh, so glad you asked! People have been using gamification as a force for change and overall betterment of the world in really interesting ways. Check this short list from noted expert Yu-kai Chou.  Be inspired!

The 10 best social products that use gamification to literally save the world …

  1. Puzzle game FoldIt made breakthroughs in AIDS research that scientists couldn’t
  2. RPG Diary mobi game titled Pain Squad helps children manage cancer pain and doctors manage treatment.
  3. Zamzee helps kids get active and stay fit inspired by missions and challenges
  4. Khan Academy makes creates love of learning through gamified online education
  5. CrowdRise turns charitable giving into a gamified experience
  6. SuperBetter helps people recover from setbacks and achieve their goals
  7. OPower encourages responsible energy consumption
  8. RecycleBank saves the environment by incentivising good environmental practices
  9. m.Paani helps people get access to clean water with loyalty points
  10. FreeRice feeds the hungry through an online quiz game