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Convincing Businesses to Try Gameification

2011 June 22

One of my core personal missions is to convince the corporate world that gameification is a valuable tool in the arsenal of HR strategists for encouraging particular behaviors from their employees.

From a mechanical standpoint, gameification is no different from any traditional reward system. When you earn “points” for eating regularly at your favorite sub shop, you’re getting all the rewards that gameification can offer. Perhaps even more so, as points at the sub shop are probably tied to a free sub! But there is an important difference between the sub shop’s loyalty program and gameification as HR can use it: fun.  Gameified reward systems are not only rationally “a good idea” but are also themselves enjoyable to participate in.

Convincing management that the workplace can (and should) be fun is a surprisingly difficult task. In the United States at least, there is a perception that work and play should be kept far apart. I’ve attempted to make my own contribution to the argument by publishing a piece on the online social network I developed with gameification elements as “Casual Social Games as Serious Games: The Psychology of Gameification in Undergraduate Education and Employee Training” in an upcoming text published by Springer-Verlag, Serious Games and Edutainment Applications.  With gameification techniques in place, undergraduates took optional online multiple choice quizzes and called them fun, enjoyable, and rewarding.  That’s power!

So given all that, I appreciate the effort by Socialcast to promote gameification with a big manager-friendly infographic (see below).  It reports all sorts of interesting statistics, such as the low mean engagement of employees in the US workforce now, the expanding video gaming market, the wide variety of demographics (especially ages) now playing games, and the parallels between games and jobs.

It is potentially a smidge misleading though.  While the infographic puts game mechanics and engagement right next to each other, it is essentially doing no more than wink wink, nudge nudge, they could be related! There’s not yet a whole lot of scientific evidence that game-focused programs actually do any good (at least, aside from my own and a handful of others).  We also don’t really know the boundary conditions under which gameification works; for example, does the concept of leveling improve outcomes?  And there’s absolutely nothing yet tying gameification to engagement, although I’ve got an open project right now that I hope will do just that (as long as the data look like I hope they will!).

Regardless, for now, the graphic does illustrate some interesting points; perhaps it will now be a part of my manager-convincing arsenal.

By the way, I use the term “gameification” instead of “gamification” quite purposefully.  Why take the game out of gameification?

Casual social games as serious games: The psychology of gameification in undergraduate education and employee training
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