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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 so called non-game contexts[1][2][5] in attempts to improve user engagement,[6][7] organizational productivity,[8] flow,[9][10] learning,[11][12][13] employee recruitment and evaluation,[14] ease of use and usefulness of systems,[10][15][16] physical exercise,[17] traffic violations,[18] and voter apathy,[19] among others. A review of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.[3] However, individual and contextual differences exist.[20]


Gamification uses an empathy-based approach (such as Design thinking) for introducing, transforming and operating a service system that allows players to enter a gameful experience to support value creation for the players and other stakeholders.[21] Gamification designers address the user as player to indicate that the motivations and interests of the player are in the center of the gamification design.

Gamification in a narrow sense is used in a non-game context, is built into the service system, and is aiming at an infinite experience. It does not aim at creating a game but offering a gameful experience. In a broader sense gamification also includes game context such as in serious games and finite and infinite games.[22]

Enterprise Gamification[22]
Gamification Simulation Serious game
Game based Learning
Examples SAP Community Network
Stack Overflow
Yahoo! Answers
Zombies, Run!
ERPSim Merchants
Ribbon Hero
In System
Examples Gamification Guru Leaderboard Farm Simulator
Surgeon Simulator 2013
Emergency Simulator
SAP Roadwarrior
Stroke Hero
Ten Euro Tetris
The Accounted
Magnum Pleasure Hunt
Coke Zero / James Bond
Out System
Infinite Finite
Non-game context Game context

Another categorization compares gamification with other gameful approaches by looking at characteristics such as spontaneity, rules, or goals:[22]

Play Game Serious game Simulation Gamification Enterprise Gamification
Spontaneous Yes No No No No No
Rules No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Goals No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Structured No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Real World Outcome No No Yes/No Yes/No Yes Yes
In System No No No Yes/No Yes Yes


External video
Gamification: Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators, Enterprise Gamification educational video[23]

Gamification techniques strive 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,[24] achievement badges or levels,[25] the filling of a progress bar,[26] or providing the user with virtual currency.[25] Making the rewards for accomplishing tasks visible to other players or providing leader boards are ways of encouraging players to compete.[27] Due to potentially problematic consequences of competition, which can result in unethical behavior, low cooperation and collaboration, or disadvantaging certain player demographics such as women,[28] best-practice gamification designs try to refrain from using this element.

Another approach to gamification is to make existing tasks feel more like games.[29] Some techniques used in this approach include adding meaningful choice, onboarding with a tutorial, increasing challenge,[30] and adding narrative.[29]



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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] There have also been proposals to use gamification for competitive intelligence,[34] encouraging people to fill out surveys,[35] and to do market research on brand recognition.[36] Gamification has also been integrated into Help Desk software. In 2012, Freshdesk, a SaaS-based customer support product, integrated gamification features, allowing agents to earn badges based on performance.[37]

Gamification has also been used as a tool for customer engagement,[38] and for encouraging desirable website usage behavior.[26] Additionally, gamification is readily 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.[39] 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, including at the higher end, the privilege of helping to moderate the site.


Gamification can be used for ideation, the 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.[40]


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.[41] Health Month adds aspects of social gaming by allowing successful users to restore points to users who have failed to meet certain goals.

A review of health apps over 100 apps in the apple app store showed a positive correlation between gamification elements used and high user ratings. Naming myfitnesspal as an app that used the highest amount of gamification elements.[42]


Employee productivity is another problem that gamification has been used to tackle. RedCritter Tracker,[43] Playcall,[44] and Arcaris [45] are examples of management tools that use gamification to improve productivity. Digital Brand Group is the first company in India to fully gamify their work process to make their work style more engaging and encouraging. Similarly PlayLyfe, a Gamification company has deployed its flagship sales and service gamification product "Catalyst" in many large enterprises that are using it to improve sales/service workforce learning as well as the performance.

Experts anticipate that the technique would also be applied to health care, financial services, transportation, government,[46] employee training,[47] and other activities.[48] Indeed, a growing area is in the development of game-based assessments for use in recruitment.[49]


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.[50] 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.[51] Research from the University of Bonn used gamification to increase wiki contributions by 62%.[52]

External video
Gamification by Kevin Werbach, University of Pennsylvania with Coursera, online course preview[53]

Education and training are areas where there has been interest in gamification.[54][55] Microsoft released the game Ribbon Hero 2 as an add-on to their Office productivity suite to help train people to use it effectively,[56] which was described by Microsoft as one of the most popular projects its Office Labs division ever released.[57] 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.[58] SAP has used games to educate their employees on sustainability.[59] The US military and Unilever have also used gamification in their training.[47] The Khan Academy is an example of the use of gamification techniques in online education.[60] 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.[61] In 2014, the True Life Game project was initiated, with the main purpose of researching the best ways to apply concepts of gamification and crowdsourcing into lifelong learning. In 2015, Arizona State University added five interactive story based games to its environmental science curriculum. Within the game, students are placed in leadership roles and given the task of solving complicated environmental and sustainability issues.[62]

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.[63][64] The Anti-Defamation League has noted that some terror groups, such as Hezbollah, have created actual games to market their ideology to adolescents.[65]

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.[66] 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.[67] While businesses face the challenges of creating motivating gameplay strategies, what makes for effective gamification [68] is a key question.


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.[69] 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.[70] Gamification has also been proposed as a way to select and manage archives.[71] Recently, an Australian technology company called Wynbox has recorded success in the application of its gamification engine to the hotel booking process.[72]


Though the term "gamification" was coined in 2002 by Nick Pelling,[73] a British-born computer programmer and inventor, it did not gain popularity until 2010.[74][75] Even prior to the term coming into use, other fields borrowing elements from videogames was common; for example, some work in learning disabilities[76] and scientific visualization adapted elements from videogames.[77] A Forbes blogger also retroactively labelled[78] Charles Coonradt, who in 1973 founded the consultancy The Game of Work and in 1984 wrote a book[79] by the same name, as the "Grandfather of Gamification".

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.[80] The technique captured the attention of venture capitalists, one of whom said he considered gamification the most promising area in gaming.[81] Another observed that half of all companies seeking funding for consumer software applications mentioned game design in their presentations.[26]

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[82] argues for a connection to both the Soviet concept of socialist competition, and the American management trend of "fun at work". Fuchs[83] 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.[84]

In addition to companies that use the technique, a number of businesses created gamification platforms. In October 2007, Bunchball,[85] backed by Adobe Systems Incorporated,[86] was the first company to provide game mechanics as a service,[87] 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.[88] In June 2009 a Seattle-based startup called BigDoor was founded, providing gamification technology to non-gaming websites.[89][90][91] Badgeville launched in late 2010, and raised $15 million in venture-capital funding in its first year of operation;[92] it provides gamification services to a number of large customers. provides a gamification solution targeted to sales representatives using the Charles Coonradt principles[78] that are integrated into platform. IActionable also launched a gamification platform aimed at integrating with[93] In 2011, Playlyfe was launched which started offering gamification as a service to individual developers and enterprises.[94][95]

Among established enterprise firms, SAP AG,[96][97] Microsoft, IBM, SAP, LiveOps, Deloitte, and other companies have started using gamification in various applications and processes.[98]

Gamification 2013, an event exploring the future of gamification, was held at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus in October 2013.[99]

The inaugural Loyalty Games 2014 Loyalty Gamification World Championship were held online with Live World Finals San Francisco.[100]

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.[101]

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.[102]


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.[103]

In a 2014 comprehensive review of all health and fitness apps in the apple store using gamification as a method to modify behaviour 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."[42]

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.[104][105]

Gamification practitioners[106][107] 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.[108] This was supported by a Brigham Young University study which concluded that an increase in gamification elements correlated with an increased in motivation score, but not with capacity or opportunity/trigger scores.[42][109]

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.[42]

A call was also made by Herger Mario to game designers to engage in gamification and apply their knowledge and skills to the enterprise applications market in a constructive way.[108]

MIT Professor Kevin Slavin has described business research into gamification as flawed and misleading for those unfamiliar with gaming.[110] Heather Chaplin, writing in Slate, describes gamification as "an allegedly populist idea that actually benefits corporate interests over those of ordinary people".[111] 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".[112]

"Gamification" as a term has also been criticized. Ian Bogost has referred to the term as a marketing fad and suggested "exploitationware" as a more suitable name for the games used in marketing.[113] Other opinions on the terminology criticism have made the case why the term gamification makes sense.[114]

Fuchs et al. investigated historical predecessors to today's gamification that go back to the 18th century.[115]

See also[edit]


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Further reading (books)[edit]

External links[edit]