What is gamification?

What is gamification?

Games are fun. In fact, the word it is based on, gamen, means “play, fun or to amuse oneself”.

Based on this, it’s not surprising that they appeal to our human nature, even amongst those of us who don’t think of ourselves as ‘gamers’ (but more on that later). We all enjoy a good challenge, maybe a sense of competition or the ensuring rewards for achieving something.

At their core, games are about striving to achieve something and often failing. The magic bit about games is the failing that becomes part of the actual fun. Get the ‘fail’ bit right, and you boost the desire to achieve, to try again, to prove you can do it. By applying some of these principles of games to other aspects of life, we can increase productivity, engagement or efficiency; we can make ourselves go on where we might have stopped; or we can create an element of fun in an otherwise mundane task.

Gamification is the term used for the application of game techniques and principles in a non-game environment. With modern day applications in the health, education and business space, gamification presents an incredible opportunity.

The term gamification did not gain widespread use until around 2010. However, these techniques date back to the late 1800’s with Green Stamps. These stamps, issued at Sperry & Hutchinson stores, could be collected and redeemed for products in a catalogue, similar to a modern-day loyalty program. We see programs like this today at coffee shops and frequent flier miles with airlines. Yes, for all you ‘non-gamers’, loyalty programs including frequent flyer programs are a type of game, as is happy hour, limited offers and even social media. In a recent study on consumer trust by PwC, gamification was featured at number 7 on a list of traits that attract consumers to retailers.

The core facets of gamification work naturally with the instantaneous nature of our digital world and The Project Factory (the global digital development arm of Way To Blue) apart from making actual games we specialise in applying these principles into areas such as health, behaviour change, education and lifestyle improvements.

Gamification’s applications are plentiful, with many yet to be discovered. Since its inception, it has provided a multitude of ways for companies, groups, and people to engage with each other, increase efficiency. Gamification’s uses are just being discovered, with lots of untapped potential waiting to be utilised. As long as people enjoy playing games, gamification will serve as a useful tool to create change in the workspace and the world.

Gamification at play

Gamification has been widely adopted to train employees, motivate customers to spend more and increase customer feedback. Gamification takes advantage of the mechanics and intricacies of games to achieve its goals. To do this, developers add high degrees of personalisation, add challenges, offer up unexpected surprises (called ‘easter eggs’ in the game dev community), limit time, reward you when you complete actions and generally adjust mechanics to appeal to the varying tastes of users. These tactics are beginning to be used by professionals outside of the games industry as well.

An example in the health space is Check Up GP, created by The Project Factory (global digital development arm of Way To Blue), Check Up GP is a mobile responsive questionnaire for youths regarding their mental health. Using interactive elements, playful responses, and ‘surprise and delight’, Check Up GP managed to get young adults to communicate, in intimate detail, information about their life and lifestyle with 91% of young participants thinking it was a “good idea”. The responses were candid, including answers about risky behaviour, bullying, self-harm and body image. For the general practitioners involved in the Check Up GP pilot, this was a massive change from getting information the traditional way: they received more detailed, honest, substantial responses; allowing them to build a deeper connection with their patients.

Gamification has also been used to address mental health issues: This Way Up is a mobile application created in partnership with The Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent’s Hospital. The unit helps patients dealing with an array of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, social phobia and OCD. The app uses directed storytelling, self-check-in and light game techniques to incentivise users to complete the course and return for subsequent attempts. 75% of This Way Up clients indicate some level of improvement in their symptoms, with zero side effects.

When TPF designed the highly efficacious Quit Now: My QuitBuddy for the Australian Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA), the app was designed with a huge amount of gamification included: the user is shown a visual image representing their growing health as a result of quitting with spinning numbers representing their savings in terms of cost, cigarettes not smoked and chemicals avoided. Coupled with strong goal setting, supportive alerts and messages, personal reminders as to why the user is on this journey and clever ‘check-ins’ that understand we are all human, My QuitBuddy has been assessed as one of the most effective ways to support someone on their journey to become smoke-free.

One of the greater challenges we face is trying to retrofit ‘gamification’ post development. The simple mechanics of signing up, entering details and really looking at how you participate (in a game style way) all increase the sticky and valuable nature of your product. Hint… try to get it in first.


Originally published on LinkedIn