Gabe Zichermann

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Gabe Zichermann
Zichermann speaking at The Next Web conference
Born (1974-05-20) May 20, 1974 (age 49)
EducationBIS in Human Intelligence/Gifted Kids/Statistics (University of Waterloo)
MBA (Rollins College)[1]

Gabe Zichermann (born May 20, 1974) is a Canadian-American author, public speaker, and businessman. He has worked as a proponent of leveraging game mechanics in business, education, and other non-entertainment platforms to increase user engagement in a process called gamification.[3]

Business ventures[edit]

Zichermann has held a series of positions in the technology sector. He formerly served as vice president of strategy and communications at Trymedia, and was their first US hire. As a marketing director of CMP Media, he managed Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine.[4] In 2008 he created now-defunct start-up RMBR to introduce game mechanics into photo sharing.[5] He was the Chief Marketing/Strategy Officer at Boonty Inc., an online company that sells downloadable games.[6] He has served as co-director of the New York chapter of the Founder Institute[7] as well as a board member of[8][9] He is the co-founder and CEO of Dopamine, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping businesses utilize gamification.[10][11]

In his role as CEO of, Zichermann chairs the organization's annual Gamification Summit, delivering the keynote address each year.[12][13][failed verification]


Although the term 'gamification' was coined by the founder of Bunchball, Rajat Paharia, Gabe Zichermann is known as one of the concept's most vocal advocates.[14][15]

Zichermann reports that he gravitated towards using game mechanics professionally with games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Civilization. In his speeches at TEDx he argues that not only can gamification be exploited by business but it also can be utilized in education as a serious game to teach students that are not otherwise engaged with traditional classrooms.[16] He points to educationalist Anant Pai's work with an elementary school in White Bear Lake, Minnesota as well as University of Washington's Foldit program.[17] He counters the argument that the immersive environment of video games don't teach the right kind of attention by pointing to the concept of fluid intelligence. Zichermann believes the intense mental engagement of video games is tied to the dopamine released in game participants as the players receive rewards in game. Zichermann also refutes the idea that gamification is necessarily pernicious or simply a fad by pointing to the positive results of gamification applied outside of the entertainment industry, although he has acknowledged that a dark side does exist to this technology.[18][19] He also posits that gamification could be taken to online banking, charitable organizations, or any other industry.[20] A system of rewards could encourage members of a gym to attend regularly.[21]

Zichermann describes business software utilizing gamification as funware, remarking that even websites like Facebook and LinkedIn use some element of online reward to prompt user interaction.[5][22] He has explained the "reason why Facebook is a really compelling MMO is because it's fun and you get something out of it."[23] He opines that increasing the degree of game mechanics through funware in work production will become even more effective on the millennial generation raised with video games and seek to stay in a game environment at the workplace.[24][25] He has criticized current location-based applications like Foursquare as lacking enough social element as well as being too complicated for users to remain engaged.[26]

Zichermann has been criticized by the academic and video game designer Ian Bogost, who draws on Harry Frankfurt's famous philosophical treatise "On Bullshit" to argue that "gamification" (as Zichermann uses the term) "is not germane to enterprise of describing reality" and suggests the term "exploitationware" would be a more accurate alternative.[27]


In 2010, Zichermann co-wrote Game-Based Marketing: Inspire Customer Loyalty Through Rewards, Challenges, and Contests with NPR contributor Joselin Linder, describing the game mechanics that helped make FarmVille and Foursquare so successful.[28]

In 2011, Zichermann co-wrote Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps with Christopher Cunningham. The book has been described as a quick read, introducing the concept of gamification and discussing how businesses could implement gamification to keep their customers engaged.[29] Zichermann agrees that the book's concept of engagement may be 75% customer psychology. The book also includes a Ruby on Rails coding tutorial to implement gamification in online forum design.[30]

In 2013, Zichermann partnered with Joselin Linder again to co-author The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition.[31] The book discusses gamification as a loyalty program not unlike S&H Green Stamps or McDonald's Monopoly.[32]


  1. ^ "Gabe Zichermann Keynote Speaker Bio". Keynotes.Org. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  2. ^ "The Founder Institute: Helping Founders to Build Great Companies". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
    "Saatchi S Perspective: Gabe Zichermann, CEO". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  3. ^ "Gabe Zichermann". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
    Ong, Bao (2009-11-10). "No Consensus on Financial Crisis's Legacy for City". The New York Times.
    "Gabe Zichermann". Sustainable Brands. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
    "Robinson Speakers Bureau — Speaker Gabe Zichermann". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  4. ^ Slagle, Matt (2004-11-05). "Trio of hot new games victimized by piracy". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    "Anti-piracy firm nets booty, sails on - San Francisco Business Times". 2005-03-27. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    "Game distributor moves S.F. HQ and opens London office - San Francisco Business Times". 2004-06-09. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    "Rules of the Game". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2008-01-28. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  5. ^ a b "Funware's threat to the traditional video game industry | GamesBeat". 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    "You must rmbr this | Bit Player | Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  6. ^ "E3Expo Unveils Agenda for 2006 Conference Program - Xbox". 2006-03-14. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    "Boonty, Inc.: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  7. ^ "This Incubator Focuses on Founders First, Then Companies". 2012-06-27. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  8. ^ "StartOut – Building and Supporting Gay and Lesbian Entrepreneurship » Board of Governors". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  9. ^ "Gabe Zichermann". Rutgers Center for Management Development. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  10. ^ "'Gamification' Techniques Increase Your Employees' Ability To Learn By 40% | Business Insider Australia". 2013-09-19. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  11. ^ Nadia Cameron (CMO) 10 September 2013 16:50 2 (2013-09-10). "Why gamification and big data go hand-in-hand - data-driven marketing, customer insights, gamification, big data, real-time marketing, customer loyalty programs". CMO. Retrieved 2013-09-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Gsummit". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  13. ^ "Grassroots Game Conference: gamification conference in conjunction with Philly Tech Week » Philly". 2012-04-17. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  14. ^ Price, Kevin (2013-08-20). "The Man Who Coined "Gamification" Takes Loyalty to a New Level". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  15. ^ "Home of the Future - Videos - Godfather of Gamification". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  16. ^ TED Brussels. "Gabe Zichermann: How games make kids smarter". TED. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  17. ^ "TEDxBerlin - Gabe Zichermann - "Changing the Game in Education"". YouTube. 2012-09-21. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  18. ^ Gabe Zichermann (2011-08-29). "Gamification Is Here to Stay". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  19. ^ David F. Carr (2011-10-06). "Gamification: 75% Psychology, 25% Technology". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  20. ^ "Gaming The System". Forbes. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  21. ^ Ivor Tossell (2012-08-23). "How long till life is one big video game?". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  22. ^ "Funware, A New Game Theory For Marketers". 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  23. ^ Slagle, Matt (2007-11-27). "Online games meet social networking tools". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  24. ^ Graham, Fiona (2012-02-28). "BBC News - What if you got paid to play games at work?". BBC Online. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  25. ^ Von Christian Neeb (2010-12-18). "Digitaltrend Gamification: Der neue große Hunger nach der verspielten Realität" (in German). Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  26. ^ More, Adam (2011-09-20). "Social Media Week – Location and Social Space – Nokia Conversations : the official Nokia blog". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  27. ^ Walz, Steffen P.; Deterding, Sebastian (2015-01-16). The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02800-4.
  28. ^ Robert D. Hof. "Game Changers Capitalize On Constantly Evolving Industry". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  29. ^ "Book Review Gamification by Design by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham". 2011-09-16.
  30. ^ David F. Carr (2011-10-06). "Gamification: 75% Psychology, 25% Technology - Social Business". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  31. ^ "Tufts Magazine / summer 2013". Tufts University. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  32. ^ pfaulhaber, (2013-04-10). "Book Review: The Gamification Revolution by Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder". Retrieved 2013-09-24.

External links[edit]