Gamification Isn’t A Gimmick: Why It’s Here to Stay

08/15/2016 - 04:04

Robert Parmer | Image: Geoff Simon

The phenomenon known as gamification takes game-like components and fuses them into workplace activities and other elements of our everyday lives.

Gamification is a uniquely inspiring method for engaging people. It motivates employees and aids in breaking up otherwise monotonous tasks, but also caters to the everyday person outside of work.

For instance, the recent Pokémon Go craze requires players to physically walk around in order to play the game. This is a perfect example of gamification of exercise!

Keep in mind, this is not just limited to what we constitute as video games. All activities that are measurable or can somehow be tracked, can certainly be gamified.

The Psychology of Gamification

But why does it work? Wouldn’t gamification only cater to those with a strong interest in video games?

Not necessarily.

Simply put, everyone is somehow interested in the idea of a game-oriented interface. A person’s grandma doesn’t have to be a well-versed Call of Duty player in order to feel fulfillment from gamification. She’d probably be thrilled if grocery stores offered in-store shopping Bingo.

Gamification is also heavily based on incentives and boosting efficiency in a multitude of ways. There is much psychology buried within gamification.

In his book titled Gamification by Design, Gabe Zichermann explains that “gamification is 75 percent psychology and 25 percent technology.”

Gamification taps into psychological signals and cues. These cues are what push our daily decisions. Tools corollary to gamification act as a platform for driving motivation.

While gamification is typically entertaining and fun, it usually has an objective undertone: it strives for an efficiency boost.

Gamification at Work

What if a supervisor or workplace superiors could inject a bit of entertainment into an otherwise mundane work day?

By taking elements of friendly competition, gamification allows employees to collaborate in a unique way. This boosts performance and efficiency at work. Whether in group on individual settings, a gamified place of work involves a workflow of unlocking achievements through metered progress management.

Tech-giant Cisco even uses gamification to train their employees. The company wanted employees that were well-versed in social media, so they created a training course that felt like a game. The course used equal parts collaboration and competition which transcended into earned, applicable social media skills and certifications.

And it really struck a chord with their employees.

Since gamifying its training program for social media, over 650 Cisco employees have earned legitimate certifications. Over 13,000 courses of this gamified course have been taken already!

Game-Based Education

Gamification can also shine up the dull parts of school. It can take subjects that many students deem as unexciting and swap their perceptions.

While video games weren’t very prevalent in classrooms decades ago, I can remember ways in which my teachers used gamification to engage students in succeeding. When I was in third grade, my teacher used an archaic form of gamification to help us learn how to multiply. She did so by bribing us with ice cream. Each student in the class would be given a piece of colored paper that had a picture of a large silver bowl on it. Every time a student learned a set of multiplication flashcards, they were able to add something to their ice cream sundae.

The more sets of flashcards that were memorized, the more scoops and toppings kids were able to add to their picture. Several months later, the photos turned reality as students were rewarded with an ice cream party of whatever they had earned on their picture.

But gamification doesn’t stop at the simplistic elementary level. Many universities, especially those focusing on online schooling, use gamification as another means of learning.

The Environmental Science program at Arizona State University Online breaks the mold of traditional teaching methods by using gamification that emulates real world scenarios that students will likely face after graduation.

Frank Timmes, Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration explains:

“We put a great deal of consideration into our online courses to ensure they’re interesting and engaging for online learners. We (ASU) are committed to integrating experiential learning opportunities into our online programs through game-based learning and simulation tools that provide students with real-world, hands-on skills.”

Healthcare Applications

The healthcare industry is no stranger to gamification either. This niche is actively pursuing the contemporary platform in the following ways:

  • Patient self-monitoring with games and in-room cameras
  • Medical training through game-infused training courses
  • Medication reminders that feel like games
  • Physical therapy and fitness programs with rewards for consistency

What’s more, gamification can even help healthcare workers combat compassion fatigue. Ingraining this type of tech into wearables will help doctors and nurses ensure that they aren’t exhausting themselves. Over-working and compassion fatigue are common in hospitals and other healthcare settings because of the severity of many situations in which lives are at stake.

That doesn’t mean those working in healthcare shouldn’t address their own needs as well. Afterall, a person cannot nurture from a dry well. Gamification helps those who need care and those who give it.

Giving students, employees, and consumers gamified experiences is extremely beneficial to everyone involved. Gamification isn’t a gimmick. It’s progressing and it isn’t going away because it offers a break in monotony--a more entertaining spin on the things we do every day.