Gamification is an emerging trend in education, organisations, and consumer engagement. It’s a new and interesting way to engage people and incentivise behaviour. There is a lot of discussion about the potential of gamification to solve the engagement crisis, both in academic literature and practice. Gamification is more than just fun though, it is an approach that is grounded in theory from psychology, neuroscience and behavioural studies.
In its most basic form, gamification is the use of points, badges and leaderboards to reward performance. It uses social status and team spirit to incentivise and reward desired behaviours. But it’s much more than that. It’s a way to connect the physical world with a virtual one, and do so in a way that is meaningful and make the world a better place. I like to think of it as an enhanced experience of the physical world.
Despite the interest, we are still at the beginning of this trend and there is much to learn. Take for example, the very definition of gamification. Most gamification designers and academics use the definition of “Gamification is the application of game mechanics to non-game contexts”. While this gives you some idea about what it is, it is somewhat vague and does not tell you how and why to use gamification.
We prefer this definition.
“Gamification is the use of game mechanics and experience design to engage users and solve real world problems.”
Gamification is not a game.
Another way to understand what gamification is, is to understand what it is not. Here are some interesting definitions for you, of related but different concepts.
Play, also known as paidia, are free-form behaviours based on improvisation and expressions. Play is done for its own sake.
Games, also known as ludus, are rule-based play with determined objectives. Games can be both serious and for entertainment, and are a form of activity that often uses physical objects and interaction with other players
Game-based learning is the use of games to promote learning and is used for knowledge- and skill-acquisition, used in educational or sporting settings.
Gameful design is drawing inspiration from games and using game concepts for design, such as user interface, narrative and so on.
Gamification, is about connecting the real world with a gamified world, where the behaviours are done in the real world and rewarded in the gamified one. The gamified and real world become intertwined.
Our understanding of gamification and its uses are still embryonic. There is and will be a lot of exciting development in this space in the very near future.