Games are a deeply rooted part of our culture, from the freeform play of children to the highest levels of competition on the field, around the table, or on the screen. That’s why it should come as no surprise that game-based structures are regularly embedded into more serious aspects of our lives, including marketing and education. We love games, and we’re less likely to realize we’re being sold or taught something when we’re distracted by the allure of a game.
What Is Gamificaton
The application of game-like features to things that aren’t really games at all is known as gamification. In the past this might have meant motivating employees to boost their sales performance by using leaderboards or offering ways for shoppers to earn bonus points. Compared to modern gamification strategies, however, these methods look amateurish.
Today’s approaches to gamification are less about motivation or reward than about engagement. Companies are less interested in providing the traditional trappings of winning or out-performing others and more interested in creating a resonant, personal, and aesthetically pleasing experience.
Finally, gamification takes advantage not only of the increasing popularity of serious console video games, like World of Warcraft and Halo, as well as our constant attachment to casual gaming activities, like the ones most of us tap away at on our phones. When even middle-aged moms are tied to Candy Crush Saga, you know there’s a powerful tool somewhere in the midst of this sugary game – and that tool is the essence of gamification.
Games Get Personal
Part of what makes gamification successful is that it draws on several key motivating factors among consumers, users, and even students. This includes drawing on the emotional influences of color, as well as increased personalization through process.
It’s one thing to watch a fun and interesting home page video and another to enter that video as a game. Instead of auto-play, the viewer may have to choose a path or eliminate barriers. Those little actions are the process aspect, and it draws customers in. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to engage.
Quizzes also offer an aspect of gamification to a site while helping businesses gather useful data. By asking a few pointed questions about what a customer is looking for along with some demographic questions, customers get better search results and businesses gain increased insights into the minds’ of their audience.
Teaching With Gamification
It’s not only marketers and big companies who are engaging gamification to improve outcomes, but education is also adopting the technique, using game-based teaching methods and programs to boost student engagement, build skills, and encourage perseverance in the face of challenges. Because gaming is so diverse, students can make gains in strategic thinking and problem solving, non-linear thought, communication, and media literacy. Many of these skills form the basis for later computer science education, a rapidly growing field with too few qualified applicants.
For students struggling in the classroom, educational games can provide quality, immediate feedback and can also improve behavior for reward-motivated students.
The educational value of gaming – both as a tool for learning and as something to learn the science behind – is gaining broad institutional recognition, with gaming entering the curriculum. For example, in his look at gaming history, Brad Nierenberg, President and CEO of RedPeg Marketing, notes that respected educational institution UC-Irvine has introduced a gaming program, and is even offering scholarships and building a premier gaming facility. It will be interesting to see the innovations that programs like these bring to education.
Gamification may be just the tool we need to keep pace with the modern world, with the career skills needed in computer science and the drive towards personalized service. Games aren’t going anywhere and gamification is likely to keep evolving and reaching new audiences and markets.