The existence of games dates back to ‘human ancient days’. They were used as a channel for social interaction, knowledge sharing, developing mental skills, entertainment as well as teaching spiritual and ethical lessons.
Common game tools were made of bones, sticks, shells, stones, fruit seeds and shapes drawn on the ground. Their features¹ included uncertainty of outcome, agreed rules, competition, and elements of fiction, elements of chance, prescribed goals and personal enjoyment. In competition games, the reward was the social status (sole bragging rights) within one community or the thrill of reaching higher levels.
Games have always exhibited the psychological ability to 1) encourage participation through rewarding achievements, 2) influence behaviour through teaching, as well as 3) improve skill(s) through practical attempts. The progression of technology eradicated the limitation from ancient tools and provided infinite possibilities for gaming feature expansion. Over the years, the gaming world perfected and ascertained the effectiveness of these attributes, and the notion of gamification today is to draw the strength of these features into company activities.
Badgeville², a company that offers an award-winning enterprise gamification and analytics solution, defines gamification as a concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals
This concept taps into the basic desires and needs of the user’s impulses, which revolve around the idea of status and achievement. Many other narrations of this concept acquiesce that game elements such as points and rewards are linked to a goal/task as an incentive to encourage participation.
Gartner³ further redefined the definition to explicitly indicate the engagements have to be digital, meaning participants interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors or other digital devices, rather than engaging with a person.
Rules of engagement
There are 10 game mechanics pulled from the world of video gaming that are commonly inherited into gamification solutions. These are fast feedback, transparency, goals, badges, levelling, onboarding, competition, collaboration, community and points. Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer of BunchBall, discussed these mechanics in detail in his book: Loyalty 3.0: Big Data and Gamification Revolutionizing Engagement (chapter 4).
Gamification is gaining popularity due to its landscape that makes the hard stuff in life fun. Its addition to Gartner’s hype cycle in 2011 also propelled its popularity in the corporate world. In fact, Gartner* correctly predicted that by 2015, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay, or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application.
Gamification is gaining popularity due to its landscape that makes the hard stuff in life fun.
Many global organisations are already enjoying the competitive advantages derived from their gamification solutions. With more organisations coming on-board, major successes will be directly proportional to the value proposition of their incentives. Companies that have realised this are looking at innovative ways to make their incentives relevant and irresistible to their customers. A successful strategy adopted in recent times is to formulate partnerships that extend incentive permutations beyond the shorelines of the business.
For example, South African health and insurance companies have already partnered with clothing stores, grocery stores, hotels, flights, computer stores, cinemas, car hires, florists and many others, to expand their rewarding permutations. Their customers are already enjoying an array of incentives through these mutual alliances, while these companies are greatly influencing customers to strive for a healthy lifestyle, and in turn, entrenching genuine customer loyalty.
My everyday gamification experience is through the health insurance reward programme that tracks my active lifestyle and rewards me for reaching my goals, with yearly cashback (in currency) guarantees, free healthy consumables, shopping discounts and monetary savings for holidays.
I am currently addicted to my mobile running application, which allows me to track and compare workouts, set personal goals, invite and motivate friends into group activities as well as periodic challenges. I find this motivating and it guarantees my participation due to its appeal to my natural desires for competition, achievement and improvement. I am sure everyone can identify with a few examples in their personal experiences.
Generally speaking, the future success of gamification will largely depend on the assertiveness of the incentive to engage the participant in order to influence their behaviour, while meeting business objectives.
Bunchball*, the first company to offer a technology platform (Nitro) to integrate game mechanics into non-game digital experiences, advocates that customers are hungry for reward, status, achievement, competition and self-expression, and they’ll go out of their way to engage with the businesses that gives it the best.