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 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.

  • At IActionable we often alert people that a bad game is worse than no game at all – poorly constructed game mechanics can have no impact or worse yet they can be an active detractor.  I wouldn’t say that gamification has completed they hype cycle however, as gamification and providers are still branching off into niches – each of which I would argue has it’s own hype cycle.  

  • I think we are seeing “gamification” as the next step in the naturally increasing sophistication of small social networks. Networks tied to an activity (like Fitocracy or Khan Academy) are using it to drive use and reduce attrition. In “special interest” social networks (based on fitness or e-learning), there is a legitimate competitive dimension to membership, making the application of gaming structures more important. 

    A key question I’d ask, when examining business plans stuffed with “gamification”, would be what dimensions users actually “compete” across, and what relevance these dimensions have to the product/service. The closer the fit, the more useful the game in keeping users sticky.

  • Really Fascinating, especially your point 3 “I started to see the word ‘gamification’ in business plans as a sure-fire, but unexplained, driver of success”. Lots businesses start saying they will add “gamification” in to their product/business without truly understand the meaning and impact behind the concept…which can turns out to be hurting the product/business in the end. 

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  • exactly

  • Suriya

    interesting. totally agree with your views.

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