Gamification August 19, 2012 at 5:31 am

First I have to say that I cordially loathe the word – gameification or gamefication would be better – but the idea is interesting. From Wikipedia:

Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.

The key observation is that successful game designers are good at getting people to perform tasks – and enjoy them – so perhaps their techniques can be used to make people well, um, to be blunt, work more.

What techniques are these? Here’s Deloitte:

Hundreds of separate game mechanics principles, behavioral economic theories, and current user experience design thinking can be distilled into four overarching elements, as noted below.

  • Progress paths: the use of challenges and evolving narratives to increase task completion. In games, the next desired action is usually clear. This clarity around objectives is usually not as explicit in real-world scenarios but is added when attaching progress paths to your processes and systems. The complexity of challenges in progress paths also increases over time. Where a novice is rewarded for more basic tasks, a more advanced user requires a challenge of greater difficulty to remain engaged with the system.
  • Feedback and reward: the use of rapid indications of success through virtual and monetary rewards. Games do not wait to reward you: buildings collapse and make noise, scores increase instantly, and virtual money may even change hands. In real-world scenarios, however, an individual’s action may go totally unnoticed or unrewarded. Adding hyperfeedback to a process can provide the right reward at the right time. Designing the right reward, then, becomes the second part of the design challenge…
  • Social connection: leveraging social networks to create competition and provide support. Games have often provided reasons for friends to gather. With the Internet, social networks and now the ability to be social over mobile devices, processes and systems can provide instant access to friends and social connections at any time. This enhances the ability to have conversations and dialogs with other users that increase the level of interaction and engagement.
  • Interface and user experience: aesthetic design and cross-platform integration considerations to enhance fun. Due to improvements in video game graphics and Web page design, many users are increasingly sophisticated when it comes to expectations for technology services. This presents a challenge for businesses with limited design staff. It also presents an opportunity for organizations that are able to either rapidly increase their design competency or network with firms who can fulfill that roll.

There are several things that I find interesting about this.

First, trading is very much like a game already. It has clear progress paths, immediate rewards, a social interface, and compelling user interfaces. Trading in many markets is very much like playing a really good computer game, only you get paid a lot to do it, and the hardware is much better than the average games console. The dirty secret is of course that many traders have so much fun at work they would probably do it for nothing.

Second, it really is amazing how much some people want to play some games, and hence the potential to enhance productivity if you can get gamification right. Obviously I would never advocate trying to create symptoms similar to video game addiction, but even making a dull job a little bit more fun may well be worth doing for both employer and employee. Gamification might help.

There is a caveat to this, though. While games can suck you in, you can get bored with them too – and you usually do. Even the most compelling computer game gets replaced by something new by almost all players. But getting a new job isn’t as easy as buying a new game. If all gamification does is create a short lived buzz of engagement which is inevitably followed by ennui, then it may be a lot less positive a force in the world of work.

This leads to last observation: people will work out what gamification does. When that happens, many of them will cease to be fooled. Not only will they see through a particular example of gamification, and likely resent being manipulated; they will see through a lot of different example of it. In short, they will become immune to the technique. Gamification is interesting, especially as seen as a kind of psychology experiment on work. But before using it, the experiments should consider what happens when the rats work out what is going on.

Comments are closed.