Gamification: A Quick Introduction

Games have been always known for their immersive and engaging experiences. These experiences normally challenge players to spend huge amount of time and efforts playing games, in return of gaining that sense of pleasure, mastery and progression that games generate in the player mind.

Building on the strength of games, the term gamifiaciton have been coined where businesses have started applying game thinking, design and tools in non-game contexts for the sake of achieving certain business objectives.

The business objectives from gamifiaciton can vary from increasing customer engagement, building relationships with customers, creating more joyful brand experiences and last but not least influencing and changing customer behaviors.

At its core, gamifiaciton is the same when it comes to the thinking, tools and methods with the difference is why it’s applied and where it’s applied, when comparing it to games.

The aim of this post is to walk you through a brief introduction on gamifiaciton and how it can be used as way to design engaging experiences. The knowledge provided here is based on the material provided in an online Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), which was provided by Coursera on the topic.

I have successfully finished this interesting course in 2013, and the following link provided a verification of my course completion record: https://www.coursera.org/verify/E2VJG3FL5W  

About the gamifiaciton course

The gamifiaciton MOOC provided by Coursera with partnership with university of Penssilvina was designed to show the application of game elements and digital game design techniques in non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. This course will teach you the mechanisms of gamification, why it has such tremendous potential, and how to use it effectively.

The course was provided by Wharton associate professor Kevin Werbach’s in Spring 2013 and had around 70,000 students signed up for it. Due to its popularity, a second revised course has been provided in 2014.

To know more about the course and its future scheduled timings, please visit the following link: https://www.coursera.org/course/gamification

What is gamifiaciton?

Gamifiaciton as discipline is a new field that has only emerged to surface, as we know it today in 2010. Some say that it’s rooted back to the year 2003, where some game designers have started to use game elements in non-game contexts.

When it comes to gamifiaciton, there is no one accepted definition for it, but as per Professor Kevin Werbach it’s: “The use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”.

The key thing in this definition is the use of game design, game thinking and game elements within spaces that are usually not part of the game industry it self, which are everyday business spaces. This can be in enterprise context, social impact, and behavioral change even in pursing innovation just to name a few.

Gamifiaciton is best suited to be applied on the non-core value exchange. So when we look at services for example, we can say if the services is providing a certain type of value to the user (example: utilitarian), its not a wise idea to gamify the core value exchange it self, but to look at boundary areas of the service experience that can be gamified.

Benefits of gamifiaciton

Gamification has many benefits for businesses on how it can impact both customer and employees to motivate and engage them with in the gamified context, but there are not the only benefits!

Gamification can be used, as a way to influence behaviors, drive innovation, drive skill learning and also give new meaning to activities that may seem dull or challenging.

For example, Foursquare defined a complete new behavior, which is the check-in (declaring ones place at a certain venue publicly). The new behavior has been enforced by applying game tools like points / badges and game mechanics like competition (What used to be mayorship in Foursquare, now I believe its depreciated). Here we can see that gamifiaciton has created a complete new engagement model that motivate people to do behaviors they did not used or know about before.

Intangible Benefits of Gamifiaciton 

Gamifiaciton can be means to increase the intrinsic motivation of its targets. This can include tapping into the inner human psychology by increasing motivation, creating permanent behavioral changes (habitual design) or uplifting the overall service experience in the mind of the target to be more immersive and fun.

Other intangible benefits can include also increasing the brand loyalty & attachment and creating the motive to promote the service provider and it’s offering.

These intangible gamifiaciton benefits can be very powerful but yet, it requires deliberate design and longer execution cycle from the service provider end.

Tangible Benefits of Gamifiaciton

Gamifiaciton can be used a way to influence the behaviors of its targets in a shorter term using techniques like immediate feedback loops, badges and rewards. These elements can be used as a way to let service providers gain a fast and deliberate responses from both customer and employees for that can be in the benefit of a certain business objectives.

These are called extrinsic motivators, since they motivate the targets to do activities not for the sake of the activity its self, but for external influencing factors out side of the activity its self like badges or rewards.

Service providers can gain performance improvements, more voluntary data collection that can lead to better customer understanding or increase in interaction engagement with the provider service offering.

To look in detail at what gamifiaciton can bring as benefits and value, the following 2×2 model shows that gamification can have both tangible and intangible benefits that can have the effect on the customers and / or the internal employees of a certain business.

Gamification benefits

Games vs. Gamification

Although games and gamifiaciton have a lot in common, but there are different when it comes to their final aims.

Both games and gamifiaciton are voluntary in nature but games are a spaces where players have the chance to make mindful choices by themselves on what they want to achieve, while gamifiaciton is all about businesses trying to direct or channel the player for certain choices that correspond to a certain business objective but with a twist of fun, challenge, competition or any other game motivational factors.

The goal it self is what differentiate games from gamifiaciton. Games are seen as way to entertain the users, while gamifiaciton is means to increase user activity with in a non-game activity, therefore increasing their engagement.

Some may also compare games to incentive programs like loyalty programs, thought they may use some similar game elements like points, badges and levels, but also the final aim is completely different as loyalty programs are means to reward customers by incentives while gamifiaciton is a means to achieve motivation and then engagement.

The following diagram highlights the different fields that are related to gamifiaciton:

Games vs. Gamifiaciton

Gamification Design Framework

So far we have looked at gamification, its benefits and how its different from games and another adjacent practices like loyalty. Now, the question is how we can use gamifiaciton in our services and applications to bring engagement and motivation?

Professor Werbach have stressed on the concept of design and that it’s not only art or illustration or creative expression, but also it’s a process to attack problems and think thoughtfully about challenges. Professor Werbach even highlighted that when it comes to gamifiaciton it’s also a design process where we try to identity why and then how gamifiaciton can be used to solve our business problems and achieve defined objectives.

So the following six steps can be used as general process design for gamifiaciton based on the work of Professor Werbach, as follows:

  1. DEFINE business objectives: Why are you gamifying? How do you hope to benefit your business, or achieve some other goal such as motivating people to change their behavior? This is the most important question to answer before starting any gamifiaciton efforts.
  2. DELINEATE target behaviors: What do you want your players to do? And how can you measure that they are actually doing the behaviors your promoting? What metrics you’re going to use to measure such behaviors? For example, your business goal might be to increase sales, but your target behavior could be for visitors to spend more time on your website.
  3. DESCRIBE your players: Who are the people who will be participating in your gamified activity? What is their relationship to your business?For example, are they prospective customers, employees at your organization, or some other community? And what are they like when it comes to demographics (such as age and gender), psychographics (such as their values and personalities).Also it will be very important to look at the players using one of the existing players classification frameworks like Bartle’s player types, or some other framework to understand the player motivations and how to design for them.
  4. DEVISE activity loops: Explore in greater detail how you will motivate your players using engagement and progression loops.Engagement loops are one way of behavioral design techniques to motivate users in an ongoing activity dialogue, which will result in increasing their engagement and the likelihood to redo tasks.At the basic level it’s about creating the motivational affordance that trigger players to act, and then to reward such action to furtherly imprint the behavior in the player mind.

    Engagement loop When it comes to progression loops it’s way to achieve the concept of flow in activates. By flow we mean to design activates in a way that at first it has clear goal, secondly, they are challenging enough compared to the current skills the player have acquired and lastly a clear and immediate feedback is provided to the participants.

    Progression loop
    For example, the first time a user is being part of gamifiaciton activity or experience, its important to make it as easy as possible to on-board the user and let him / her feel the sense of achievement. Later, the more the skills the user is acquiring the more the activity is designed to be challenging compared to the user acquired skills.

    It’s important to understand how will players progress in your gamified solution? This includes how the system will get new players engaged, and how it will remain interesting for more experienced players.

  5. DON’T forget the fun! Although gamifiaciton is not about pure entertainment of users, but fun is one element that remains as important as the other aspects.In order to fully explore this aspect of the design process, consider how your game would function without any extrinsic rewards. Would you say it was fun?Identify which aspects of the game could continue to motivate players to participate even without rewards.
  6. DEPLOY the appropriate tools: last but not least, comes the part where you need to think about which game elements you need integrate with your offering to achieve your goals.The mistake of many of the gamified experiences is that they start with this step by thinking about which game tools or elements they need you use and forget all the planning needed before hand to know which tools are best to be used in relation to the business objective.

Application of gamifiaciton

Professor Werbach in his late lecture has highlighted that gamifiaciton can be used a way to design motivation in many applications.

From these, enterprise gamifiaciton where a business or a company use gamifiaciton as way to motivate employees to increase there productivity or increase there loyalty to the company.

Also gamification can be used as a way to design for social good, where the crowd community is encouraged to do more good for the community using gamifiaciton techniques. Example, the website Stack overflow where a community of dedicated developers are encouraged to help each other in complex programming problems using gamification techniques.

Lastly, gamifiaciton can be used as a way to drive long-term behavioral change. This is key application as many experts see in gamifiaciton as means to facilitate behavioral change, which can be designed for sure.

BJ Fogg has a very famous framework for behavioral change, which is called the Fogg Behavioral Model. The Fogg framework is a framework that looks on how habits can be formed using three elements at the same time, which are motivation, ability (simplicity) and trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.

Fogg Behavior Model

Looking at the Fogg model, gamification can be used as way to increase the motivation of users using game motivational elements. This is off-course along side the others two elements which are making activity as simple as possible and also to have the right triggers that provoke the user action.

The following video provide you with more explanation about the framework by BJ Fogg him self, you can find it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvOkNQMwdiI.

Reflections on how Gamifiaciton can be used in Service Design

If we look at gamifiaciton as means to drive motivation of user and then customer engagement, services can benefit a lot from such practice in enriching the current service experiences.

Academics like Brodie & Hollebeek & Juric & Llic (2011, 253) have looked at looked at the development of customer engagement from a conceptual level based on its relationship to the service dominant logic (S-D), and have concluded that he term customer engagement is still gaining attraction with in scholars and practitioners alike in the near times.

Therefore and based on the content of this course, we can conclude that Gamification can be used a way to increase customer engagement and take service experiences to the next level from being helping, satisfying and fulfilling experiences to be more joyful, engaging, immersive and fun.

Gamification experience

This takes in mind that the key factor in measuring service experiences is the core value it provides to its key stakeholders, and later on comes the service experience on its abstract level and finally the gamified experiences that is constructed in the customer (aka player) mind, which in the end reflects the customer visible behaviors.

The following model explains how the integration of game design (gamifiaciton as one of its applications) and service design can be used to create those gamified service experiences.

Game Design + Service Design

The aim is to find a way to enhance the current service experience by adding gamifiaciton element to make service more motivational and more engaging.

I hope you found this post helpful and eye opening to this new and interesting field, for any more information, feedback or inquires feel free to use the comments to share your thoughts 🙂


About the 
author

Mussab Sharif, an innovation manager and practitioner in a leading Middle East telecom operator. Having a major of computer engineering and in the process of finishing my MBA specialized in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea university for applied sciences in Espoo, Finland.

3 thoughts on “Gamification: A Quick Introduction

  1. Thanks for the summary. This is a tricky field, as much of the most popular literature on gamification is produced by consultants whose main task seems to be to sell books and lectures on it, rather than to provide accurate, reliable information (see e.g., http://gamification-research.org/2011/09/a-quick-buck-by-copy-and-paste/).

    A lot of evidence seems to point towards gamification of services being a risk: once the novelty wears off, the service will easily end up being abandoned, as the added complications that make it game-like and initially appealing will be later found just tiresome by the users. Therefore, it is a calculated risk, if one wants to create a gamified service that has a longer life expectancy.

    For those looking for data on this, Juho Hamari (http://juhohamari.com/) and his colleagues have recently produced a lot of good evidence on how, and how long, gamification seems to hold an impact. For example, studies on flow in gamification, demographic differences in its impact, and so forth. I particularly recommend “Does gamification work: A literature review of empirical studies on gamification “(2014), which is freely available online: http://juhohamari.com/post/61403084647/does-gamification-work-a-literature-review-of For those looking for data on other facets, such as gamifying education, there’s some great stuff coming out soon, from a Canadian research group. So keep your eyes open, this is a field that is now developing really fast.

    J. Tuomas Harviainen
    Laurea SID student,
    Chief Information Specialist,
    postdoctoral researcher, University of Tampere

    • Thanks for the productive comments and the links.

      I am fully aware of the work of Hamari, though this post did not pass on his work as it was by intention as summery of the coursea MOOC only, without passing by the academic stuff 🙂

      Back to Gamaification, I would 100% agree that if it’s used as tool with no design intention in mind of what really it can do it will not make the needed effect (by just throwing some games methods here and there).

      It’s need to have a design intention and used as a “means” to achieve long term motivation and behavioral change, project this to the work of BJ Fogg, where the spike of motivation can help in achieving long term effects.

      And Yes! It may be a short time effect, but with design it can have long term consequences.

      Also, when you look at concepts like “service experiences” for example, it also needs a continues evolvement to assure the intended audience are not bit board (if it’s more about the delight and not utility), as humans get board very fast and except new things all the time, which can more or less like gamifaction 🙂

      Appreciate your comment really, thanks

  2. Agreed – you have a very good point on the effect being short-term, but its consequences long-term. The recent research (e.g, Hamari and his colleagues; Deterding) very nicely illustrates this, being positive yet always critical.

    A good summary, all in all. More than anything, I just felt like adding one critical note, as the original blog post did not discuss the potential problems of gamification to the extent to which the last year (after you took the course) have taken our common understanding of them.

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