Gamification

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Not to be confused with Game theory.

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.[1][2] Gamification commonly employs game design elements[1][2][3][4] which are used in non-game contexts[1][2][5] to improve user engagement,[6][7][8] organizational productivity,[9] flow,[10][11] learning,[12][13][14][15] crowdsourcing,[16] employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems,[11][17][18] physical exercise,[19] traffic violations,[20] voter apathy,[21] and more. A collection of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find it has positive effects on individuals.[3] However, individual and contextual differences exist.[22] Gamification can also improve an individual's ability to comprehend digital content and understand a certain area of study such as music.[23]

Techniques[edit]

External video
Gamification: Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators, Enterprise Gamification educational video[24]

The gamification techniques are intended to leverage people's natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure. Early gamification strategies use rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks or competition to engage players. Types of rewards include points,[25] achievement badges or levels,[26] the filling of a progress bar,[27] or providing the user with virtual currency.[26] Making the rewards for accomplishing tasks visible to other players or providing leader boards are ways of encouraging players to compete.[28] Potential consequences of competition can result from unethical behavior, low cooperation and collaboration, or from disadvantaging certain player demographics such as women.[29] Best-practice gamification designs try to refrain from using this element.

Another approach to gamification is to make existing tasks feel more like games.[30] Some techniques used in this approach include adding meaningful choice, onboarding with a tutorial, increasing challenge,[31] and adding narrative.[30]

Applications[edit]

Marketing[edit]

Gamification has been widely applied in marketing. Over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies surveyed in 2013 said they planned to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and customer retention.[32] For example, in November 2011 Australian broadcast and online media partnership Yahoo!7 launched its Fango mobile app/SAP, which TV viewers use to interact with shows via techniques like check-ins and badges. As of February 2012, the app had been downloaded more than 200,000 times since its launch.[33] Gamification has also been used in customer loyalty programmes. In 2010, Starbucks gave custom Foursquare badges to people who checked in at multiple locations and offered discounts to people who checked in most frequently at an individual store.[34]

Gamification has also been used as a tool for customer engagement,[35] and for encouraging desirable website usage behavior.[27] Additionally, gamification is applicable to increasing engagement on sites built on social network services. For example, in August 2010, one site, DevHub, announced that they have increased the number of users who completed their online tasks from 10% to 80% after adding gamification elements.[36] On the programming question-and-answer site Stack Overflow users receive points and/or badges for performing a variety of actions, including spreading links to questions and answers via Facebook and Twitter. A large number of different badges are available, and when a user's reputation points exceed various thresholds, he or she gains additional privileges, eventually including moderator privileges.

Inspiration[edit]

Gamification can be used for ideation (structured brainstorming to produce new ideas). A study at MIT Sloan found that ideation games helped participants generate more and better ideas, and compared it to gauging the influence of academic papers by the numbers of citations received in subsequent research.[37]

Health[edit]

Applications like Fitocracy and QUENTIQ use gamification to encourage their users to exercise more effectively and improve their overall health. Users are awarded varying numbers of points for activities they perform in their workouts and gain levels based on points collected. Users can also complete quests (sets of related activities) and gain achievement badges for fitness milestones.[38] Health Month adds aspects of social gaming by allowing successful users to restore points to users who have failed to meet certain goals. Public health researchers have studied the use of gamification in self-management of chronic diseases and common mental disorders,[39][40] STD prevention,[41][42] and infection prevention and control.[43]

In a review of health apps in the 2014 Apple App Store, over 100 apps showed a positive correlation between gamification elements used and high user ratings. myfitnesspal was named as the app that used the highest amount of gamification elements.[44]

Work[edit]

Gamification has been used in an attempt to improve employee productivity, health care, financial services, transportation, government,[45][46] and others.[47] In general, enterprise gamification refers to work situations where "game thinking and game-based tools are used in a strategic manner to integrate with existing business processes or information systems. And these techniques are used to help drive positive employee and organizational outcomes."[8]

Education[edit]

Crowdsourcing has been gamified in games like Foldit, a game designed by the University of Washington, in which players compete to manipulate proteins into more efficient structures. A 2010 paper in science journal Nature credited Foldit's 57,000 players with providing useful results that matched or outperformed algorithmically computed solutions.[48] The ESP Game is a game that is used to generate image metadata. Google Image Labeler is a version of the ESP Game that Google has licensed to generate its own image metadata.[49] Research from the University of Bonn used gamification to increase wiki contributions by 62%.[50]

External video
Gamification by Kevin Werbach, University of Pennsylvania with Coursera, online course preview[51]

Education and training are areas where there has been interest in gamification.[52][53] Microsoft released the game Ribbon Hero 2 as an add-on to their Office productivity suite to help train people to use it effectively,[54] which was described by Microsoft as one of the most popular projects its Office Labs division ever released.[55] The New York City Department of Education with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set up a school called Quest to Learn centred around game-based learning, with the intent to make education more engaging and relevant to modern kids.[56] SAP has used games to educate their employees on sustainability.[57] The US military and Unilever have also used gamification in their training.[46] The Khan Academy is an example of the use of gamification techniques in online education.[58] In August 2009, Gbanga launched the educational location-based game Gbanga Zooh for Zurich Zoo that asked participants to actively save endangered animals and physically bring them back to a zoo. Players maintained virtual habitats across the Canton of Zurich to attract and collect endangered species of animals.[59] There is some indication that gamification can be particularly motivational for students with dyslexia in educational situations.[60]

Politics and terrorist groups[edit]

Alix Levine, an American security consultant, described gamification as some techniques that a number of extremist websites such as Stormfront and various terrorism-related sites used to build loyalty and participation. As an example, Levine mentioned reputation scores.[61][62]

Technology design[edit]

Traditionally, researchers thought of motivations to use computer systems to be primarily driven by extrinsic purposes; however, many modern systems have their use driven primarily by intrinsic motivations.[63] Examples of such systems used primarily to fulfill users’ intrinsic motivations, include online gaming, virtual worlds, online shopping, learning/education, online dating, digital music repositories, social networking, online pornography, and so on. Such systems are excellent candidates for further ‘gamification’ in their design. Moreover, even traditional management information systems (e.g., ERP, CRM) are being ‘gamified’ such that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations must increasingly be considered.

As illustration, Microsoft has announced plans to use gamification techniques for its Windows Phone 7 operating system design.[64] While businesses face the challenges of creating motivating gameplay strategies, what makes for effective gamification [65] is a key question.

One important type of technological design in gamification is the Player Centered Design. Based on the design methodology User-Centered Design, its main goal is to promote greater connectivity and positive behavior change between technological consumers. It has 5 steps which help computer users connect with other people online to help them accomplish goals and other tasks they need to complete. The 5 steps are an individual or company has to know their player (their target audience), identify your mission (your goal), understand human motivation (the personality, desires, and triggers of your target audience), apply mechanics (points, badges, leaderboards, etc), and to manage, monitor, and measure the way you are using your mechanics to ensure it is helping you achieve the desired outcome of your goal and that your goal is specific and realistic.[66]

Authentication[edit]

Gamification has also been applied to authentication. For example, the possibilities of using a game like Guitar Hero can help someone learn a password implicitly.[67] Furthermore, games have been explored as a way to learn new and complicated passwords. It is suggested that these games could be used to "level up" a password, thereby improving its strength over time.[68] Gamification has also been proposed as a way to select and manage archives.[69] Recently, an Australian technology company called Wynbox has recorded success in the application of its gamification engine to the hotel booking process.[70]

History[edit]

Though the term "gamification" was coined in 2002 by Nick Pelling,[71] a British-born computer programmer and inventor, it did not gain popularity until 2010.[72][73] Even prior to the term coming into use, other fields borrowing elements from videogames was common; for example, some work in learning disabilities[74] and scientific visualization adapted elements from videogames.[75]

The term "gamification" first gained widespread usage in 2010, in a more specific sense referring to incorporation of social/reward aspects of games into software.[76] The technique captured the attention of venture capitalists, one of whom said he considered gamification the most promising area in gaming.[77] Another observed that half of all companies seeking funding for consumer software applications mentioned game design in their presentations.[27]

Several researchers consider gamification closely related to earlier work on adapting game-design elements and techniques to non-game contexts. Deterding et al.[2] survey research in human–computer interaction that uses game-derived elements for motivation and interface design, and Nelson[78] argues for a connection to both the Soviet concept of socialist competition, and the American management trend of "fun at work". Fuchs[79] points out that gamification might be driven by new forms of ludic interfaces. Gamification conferences have also retroactively incorporated simulation; e.g. Will Wright, designer of the 1989 video game SimCity, was the keynote speaker at the gamification conference Gsummit 2013.[80]

In addition to companies that use the technique, a number of businesses created gamification platforms. In October 2007, Bunchball,[81] backed by Adobe Systems Incorporated,[82] was the first company to provide game mechanics as a service,[83] on Dunder Mifflin Infinity, the community site for the NBC TV show The Office. Bunchball customers have included Playboy, Chiquita, Bravo, and The USA Network.[84] In June 2009 a Seattle-based startup called BigDoor was founded, providing gamification technology to non-gaming websites.[85][86][87] Badgeville, which offers gamification services, launched in late 2010, and raised $15 million in venture-capital funding in its first year of operation.[88] In 2011, Playlyfe was launched which started offering gamification as a service to individual developers and enterprises.[89][90]

Among established enterprise firms, SAP AG,[91][92] Microsoft, IBM, SAP, LiveOps, Deloitte, and other companies have started using gamification in various applications and processes.[93]

Gamification 2013, an event exploring the future of gamification, was held at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus in October 2013.[94]

Legal restrictions[edit]

Through gamification's growing adoption and its nature as a data aggregator, multiple legal restrictions may apply to gamification. Some refer to the use of virtual currencies and virtual assets, data privacy laws and data protection, or labour laws.[95]

The use of virtual currencies, in contrast to traditional payment systems, is not regulated. The legal uncertainty surrounding the virtual currency schemes might constitute a challenge for public authorities, as these schemes can be used by criminals, fraudsters and money launderers to perform their illegal activities.[96]

Criticism[edit]

University of Hamburg researcher Sebastian Deterding has characterized the initial popular strategies for gamification as not being fun and creating an artificial sense of achievement. He also says that gamification can encourage unintended behaviours.[97]

In the first comprehensive review of all health and fitness apps in the apple store, in 2014, using gamification as a method to modify behavior the authors concluded that "Despite the inclusion of at least some components of gamification, the mean scores of integration of gamification components were still below 50 percent. This was also true for the inclusion of game elements and the use of health behavior theory constructs, thus showing a lack of following any clear industry standard of effective gaming, gamification, or behavioral theory in health and fitness apps."[44]

Concern was also expressed in a 2016 study analyzing outcome data from 1298 users who competed in gamified and incentivized exercise challenges while wearing wearable devices. In that study the authors conjectured that data may be highly skewed by cohorts of already healthy users, rather than the intended audiences of participants requiring behavioral intervention.[98]

Game designers like Jon Radoff and Margaret Robertson have also criticized gamification as excluding elements like storytelling and experiences and using simple reward systems in place of true game mechanics.[99][100]

Gamification practitioners[101][102] have pointed out that while the initial popular designs were in fact mostly relying on simplistic reward approach, even those led to significant improvements in short-term engagement.[103] This was supported by the first comprehensive study in 2014, which concluded that an increase in gamification elements correlated with an increase in motivation score, but not with capacity or opportunity/trigger scores.[44][104]

The same study called for standardization across the app industry on gamification principles to improve the effectiveness of health apps on the health outcomes of users.[44]

MIT Professor Kevin Slavin has described business research into gamification as flawed and misleading for those unfamiliar with gaming.[105] Heather Chaplin, writing in Slate, describes gamification as "an allegedly populist idea that actually benefits corporate interests over those of ordinary people".[106] Jane McGonigal has distanced her work from the label "gamification", listing rewards outside of gameplay as the central idea of gamification and distinguishing game applications where the gameplay itself is the reward under the term "gameful design".[107]

"Gamification" as a term has also been criticized. Ian Bogost has referred to the term as a marketing fad and suggested "exploitation-ware" as a more suitable name for the games used in marketing.[108] Other opinions on the terminology criticism have made the case why the term gamification makes sense.[109]

Fuchs et al. investigated historical predecessors to today's gamification that go back to the 18th century.[110]

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Further reading (books)[edit]

External links[edit]