Gamification vs. Gaming

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Recently I heard someone say: “we’ll add some quizzes and skill games to our web site a user has to solve in order to come in”. That is Gaming but not Gamification.

These terms are often mixed up. Gamification is not about applying gaming elements to the work environment. It is about applying gaming mechanisms to none-gaming environments, to extract the motivational factors that make us play a game and improve our skills in it.

Two examples from the Internet:

  • Have you ever been annoyed by a progress bar in the profile page of your favorite social network that indicated that your profile is (only) 75% complete?
  • Have you already thought of purchasing a Pro Account so you can see who has visited your profile?

The second example – a Gamification approach called “Freemium” (“Free” and “Premium”) — solves a dilemma of the service provider: A social networking service has to be free in order to be distributed as broadly as possible. To earn money the provider has to identify features that are not crucial and that users are willing to pay for.

  • Good Usability of an application can also leverage Gamification

A good usability of an application can motivate users to use it in way it is intended to. I use for example a to-do app (Clear for IOS) that allows me to maintain my to-dos in a very basic way (no due dates, no alarms, no geo location …). It does this perfectly with very nice animations and sounds that make me enjoy to enter to-dos, to shift their order and even more to dump them.

That is Gamification. There are no angry birds around and there is no icon of a treasure chest hidden in the depth of a Web Site. It just addresses the right set of synapses and emotions in you to make you do what you are supposed to do.

As in real games, Gamification is based on the voluntariness of the goal it is applied to. IMO, it is not the tool of choice to reward someone just for doing their work.

A frequent misunderstanding of Gamification is to use it to buy loyalty (with rewards, rebates and badges) – as opposed to foster engagement. Loyalty is volatile, engagement is sustainable.

We recently evaluated a Gamification tool  that decorates users with badges that are visible on their profile. The tool is able to assign these badges based on the frequency of nearly every action a user can take in the system. Thresholds can be defined for different levels of achievements for these badges. Also limits can be configured in order to prevent “one-dimensional optimizations”. For me this looks more like buying loyalty.

On more point to consider in the work environment: no tool solves the challenge to gamify the right goals and thresholds that

  1. Are aligned to a company’s strategy and
  2. Are not too easy or too difficult to achieve (another rule from gaming) for every individual of a company’s heterogenous staff
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One thought on “Gamification vs. Gaming

  1. Pingback: Is Gamification Gaming? | Bert's Two Cents

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