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What Is Gamification?

You may have heard the term “gamification” floating around and wondered, “What is that?” The answer: Gamification is the new buzz word representing the idea of incorporating gaming concepts and techniques into non-game activities in order to drive a desired behavior. Marketing campaigns can use game mechanics to drive customers to their websites, sales agents can participate in games to drive competition and increase sales, and in our industry, documentation and training groups can build game-like training materials to fully engage the learner.

A good example of a company using games to train its employees is Cold Stone Creamery. In the mid-2000s, it developed a video game for its employees simulating the experience of preparing ice cream for its customers. The players receive higher scores when they use the correct proportions of ice cream for each order. After playing the game, employees were better at serving the correct amount of ice cream in real life.

It’s important to note that gamification does not mean that everything has to be turned into a video game. The idea behind gamification is for you to incorporate aspects of gaming into other activities in order to make these other activities more engaging to effect a desired behavior. For instance, when creating documentation on performing a task, add a note with optional instructions to perform that task in the next few minutes. This might make readers perform the task immediately and help them retain the information through practice. If you are designing an instructor-led training class, incorporate a leader board into the class where the instructor can award points to students who provide insightful responses or quality questions. This can increase student participation and engagement.

Also, remember that in many ways, gamification is a new word for an old concept. Loyalty programs like frequent flyer miles mirror the game mechanic of leveling up, but companies were using them long before anyone was throwing around the term gamification.
Personally, I find thinking about “gamification” as a good way to remind me I can use the psychological triggers found in games to enhance my documentation and training materials and increase my own creativity.
If you are interested in learning more about gaming mechanics and their psychological impacts, I recommend the book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. Reading this book has sparked a lot of creative ideas for how I can apply gaming techniques to enhance my training designs.

1 reply on “What Is Gamification?”

Very thought-provoking to consider that most of what we do is defined in the same way a game is. Reminds me of the William S. Burroughs quote: There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games.

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