Gamification – a maturing concept

My engagement with the concept of gamification has followed the pattern below. I think this has been true for many people.

  1. The badges on Foursquare were fun and I thought the idea of using gaming concepts to make non-game service more engaging had legs
  2. I started to get bored with earning meaningless badges and points all over the place
  3. I started to see the word ‘gamification’ in business plans as a sure-fire, but unexplained, driver of success (for a time ‘viral marketing’ was used with a similar lack of understanding and lack of impact)
  4. I lost interest in the whole concept

Then this morning, having not heard or thought much about the concept of gamification for six months, I saw an article on Vator.tv titled Gamification is not, alone, a sustainable solution which I anticipated would re-enforce my opinion. Instead I got a reminder that the idea behind gamification is still a good one, after all making services more fun improves the user experience, and it is the implementations and over-use in business plans that have been the problem.

The Vator post explains the difference between a good implementation of gamification and a bad one – read the whole thing, but in summary the challenge needs to be at meaningful, but not too difficult, the game has to deliver value to the core service (not just meaningless rewards), and the game should sustain interest over a period of time.

And good gamification really works. Consider this Sephora case study (again from Vator):

Sephora customers that are a part of the gamification process spend 10x as much as the average customer. Consumers that engage in social cues from Sephora are so driven by rewards, customer service and quality that they buy more products and discuss their experiences with other possible customers online.

Then straight after reading the Vator post I saw one on Venturebeatwhich describes how PlaySay is making a game of language learning. They are asking people to complete real world challenges to practice their language skills – to me that sounds much more fun than talking to a computer!

It seems gamification has now been through the whole hype cycle and matured to the point where it is a useful concept that can be widely used to good effect.