So What Is Gamification?

Are you an active member of LinkedIn groups? Did you ever notice that your contribution ratings get increased every time you contribute to those groups? All the way from ‘Getting started’ to the ‘Top Contributor’ and even it has other intermediate tags as, ‘Finding an audience’, ‘Making an impact’ and ‘Building influence’. These are recalculated every day and change based on your contributions. Well, if you’ve started contributed to the groups to get a new (and possibly higher tags) then you’ve just experienced a form of Gamification!

Yes, it is a way to keep you motivated, engaged and active on LinkedIn groups, which works pretty OK; isn’t it?

 What is Gamification on Prashant Arora Blog

So, what is Gamification? It is a way to have people more engaged by leveraging their natural desire to win, to compete and to show pride. There are various methods which promote stickiness and called Engagement Mechanics. It is the bigger picture and Gamification is just a part of it.

Under the umbrella of Engagement Mechanics, at a broad level, there are 3 ways to engage people / users:

1. Reward the Users (aka Game Mechanics)

2. Showcase their Reputation (aka Reputation Mechanics)

3. Connect them with relevant people and /or information (aka Social Mechanics)

Engagement Mechanics is the bigger picture, Gamification is just a piece of it.

Gamification is used along with ‘Reputation Mechanics’ and ‘Social Mechanics’. The example of LinkedIn is closed to the Reputation Mechanics where the group contributors feel rewarded every time they get a new tag and they show pride sharing that with others.   How Wikipedia defines Gamification is,

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.

Gartner has also defined (or rather redefined) Gamification and with this definition, I kind of agree more but it is slightly different than what Nick Pelling suggests.

Worth to note, the term ‘Gamification’ was coined by Nick Pelling back in 2003.

Gartner’s Definition:

The use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

Gamification is mostly about recognizing the human behaviors with some rewards (badges, points, coins etc.), leaderboards, showing and sharing pride with some achievements, tagging, following the people / organizations etc.

Typically, a right blend of all of these becomes the Critical Success Factor (CSF) for your Gamification strategy. Take an example of ‘Facebook’. The stickiness which Facebook has, isn’t it because of its features, such as, share, tag, like, poke etc. while applications in it leverage the other tactics like, collecting coins, points, clearing levels and earning fancy titles / badges and sharing them with the community.

So does it really work? If yes, then why? Well, the obvious desire of human beings to be rewarded when they do the right things (or desired things) and showcase those rewards and recognition helps to make it work. The way we get ‘Likes’ on every post we make, is actually the ‘instant feedback’ we receive form our community. Thumps up for good else thumps down! That elevates our desire to make more interesting posts or get more ‘thumps up’ and the cycle goes on.

The caution to be taken to ensure your Gamification strategy should not become just a digital noise maker else it may actually end up being a distractor and instead of more engagement you may see people tuning out form you. Consider those ever irritating game requests or extra lives requests and you know what I am saying!

Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun.

The other point to be considered is, fun should not be missing in your entire exercise else the leaderboards will become rusty and coins will be outdated very soon. The users must feel the importance of earning those coins or stay on top of your leaderboard without missing the fun element. I mean that’s why you’d probably call it a game!

While most of the organizations are considering Gamification as one of the potential solutions to fight the engagement crisis by having some Loyalty Programs or Gamified Learning Platforms, what are the other examples you have to share?