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The Many Names of Gamification

Gamification by Dara

Gamification, a term that has gained significant attention in recent years. It refers to the practice of applying game elements and mechanics to non-game contexts. From education and marketing to employee training and personal development, gamification has found its way into a wide range of fields. 

Gamification’s popularity stems from the potential to enhance user engagement, motivation, and overall experience. However, understanding the different definitions and types of gamification is crucial for anyone seeking to harness its power and understand it effectively. 

As the concept has evolved, various perspectives and interpretations have emerged, leading to debates and differing opinions. By exploring these nuances, we can gain a deeper understanding of how gamification manifests in different forms and how it can be utilized to achieve desired outcomes.

We will be delving into the many names of gamification, and unraveling its definitions and types. By doing so, we aim to shed light on the diverse approaches to gamification and provide insights into the considerations that can guide its successful implementation. 

Let’s embark on this journey to explore the multifaceted nature of gamification and discover its potential. 

Understanding Gamification: Definitions and Perspectives

A. Gamification as a process of applying game elements:

Gamification can be defined as an integration of game mechanics, dynamics, and elements into non-game environments or activities. It involves leveraging elements such as points, badges, leaderboards, challenges, and rewards to engage and motivate users. By incorporating these game-like elements, gamification to enhances user experience increases participation, and drives desired behaviors.

Gamification is seen as a tool or technique that borrows from game design to make non-game contexts more enjoyable and immersive. It recognizes the inherent motivational and engaging qualities of games and seeks to apply those principles in various domains, such as education, health, marketing, and productivity. 

B. Gamification as a mindset:

Beyond being solely a process of applying game elements, gamification can also be viewed as a mindset or approach to problem-solving. It emphasizes user engagement, motivation, and the overall experience design. In this perspective, gamification is not limited to the inclusion of explicit game elements but extends to the holistic design of the user experience.

Gamification as a mindset revolves around the underlying principles that make games compelling and applying them in a broader context. It involves crafting experiences that are interactive, immersive, and meaningful, with a focus on intrinsic motivation and psychological satisfaction. This approach considers aspects such as storytelling, feedback systems, progression, social interaction, and personalization to create engaging experiences that resonate with users.

By adopting a gamification mindset, designers and practitioners can transcend the surface-level implementation of game elements and delve into the deeper aspects of user engagement. It encourages a shift in perspective from a traditional, static approach to one that is dynamic, interactive, and user-centered.  

As we explore the many names of gamification, it is essential to recognize both the process-oriented nature of incorporating game elements and the mindset-driven approach to designing engaging experiences. 

Gamification vs. Serious Games: Blurring the Lines

A. Serious games as a form of gamification:

Serious games, which encompass educational games, training games, and advergames, can be seen as a subset of gamification. These games utilize game design principles to achieve non-game purposes, such as learning, training, or marketing. They often blur the line between what is considered a “game” and what is considered “gamified training.”

The distinction between a game that trains people and a gamified training program can be challenging to determine. On one hand, a game that trains employees in good conduct can be classified as a “serious game.” On the other hand, some may argue that gamification comes into play when the training program itself is gamified. It becomes a matter of perspective and interpretation.

Gamification can be applied to training by introducing a serious game as a gamified component.

B. Challenges in defining serious games and gamification:

Defining the boundaries between serious games and gamification can be a complex task. There is an ongoing debate about whether serious games should be considered examples of gamification or if they belong to a separate category altogether. Some argue that serious games are already games, and gamification principles are not applied separately to them.

The difficulty in categorizing experiences as either games or gamified training stems from the diverse nature of serious games. They can range from immersive simulations to interactive quizzes, each with different degrees of gamification elements incorporated. This variation makes it challenging to draw clear lines between what constitutes a game and what falls under the gamification umbrella.

The perception of serious games and gamification may also differ based on the intended audience and context. While serious games may be embraced in educational or training settings, they may be viewed as non-serious or distracting in more serious environments, such as enterprise firms, banks, or manufacturers. This discrepancy in perception adds another layer of complexity to the categorization of serious games and gamification.

Ultimately, the important consideration is not to engage in semantic debates about what gamification includes or excludes, but rather to understand the most appropriate implementation for a design project based on its objectives, context, and target audience. Both explicit gamification (utilizing obvious game-like elements) and implicit gamification (employing subtle game elements) have their advantages and disadvantages, and their suitability depends on the specific project and desired outcomes.

Explicit Gamification: Games that Fulfill Non-Game Purposes

A. Definition and characteristics of explicit gamification:

Explicit gamification refers to the deliberate incorporation of obvious game-like applications or elements into non-game contexts. It involves the use of game mechanics, dynamics, and visual elements to engage and motivate users in achieving specific objectives. In explicit gamification, users are aware that they are participating in a game-like experience and often opt in to engage with it.

One key characteristic of explicit gamification is the acknowledgment and consent of users to play and interact with the game elements. Unlike implicit gamification, where game elements are subtly integrated into the user experience, explicit gamification involves more overt game-like interactions.

Explicit gamification is the acknowledgment and consent of users to play and interact with the game elements

B. Examples of explicit gamification:

1.  Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 ½ weeks to Save the World: This game created by Old Spice featured former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo as the main character on a mission to save the world. Players engaged in various challenges and mini-games to progress through the storyline. The game successfully combined humor, interactive elements, and viral marketing to promote the brand.

2.  McDonald’s Monopoly game: McDonald’s Monopoly is a well-known example of explicit gamification in the form of a promotional campaign. Customers received game pieces with their purchases and had the chance to collect and trade them to win prizes. The game tapped into people’s desire for competition, collecting, and the thrill of potentially winning big prizes.

The advantages of explicit gamification include creating a more playful and engaging experience for users. It allows designers the freedom to be creative and incorporate game elements that can enhance user motivation and participation. When implemented well, explicit gamification can keep users engaged for longer periods and potentially lead to better business results.

However, there are also disadvantages to consider. Some target users, particularly in more serious or professional settings, may perceive explicit gamification as childish, non-serious, or distracting. Corporate managers, for example, may have an aversion to graphical game elements. Implementing explicit gamification often requires more resources to create a high-quality game, which can be a drawback in terms of cost and development efforts.

It is important for designers to carefully consider the target audience and context when opting for explicit gamification. While it can be effective in certain scenarios, it may not be suitable or well-received in all contexts. Balancing the playfulness and creativity of explicit gamification with the expectations and needs of the target users is crucial for achieving successful outcomes.

Implicit Gamification: Human-Focused Design that Utilizes Game Elements

A. Definition and characteristics of implicit gamification:

Implicit gamification refers to the design approach that subtly incorporates gamification techniques and the core drives of Octalysis into the user experience. Unlike explicit gamification, where game elements are obvious and explicitly acknowledged by the users, implicit gamification operates more covertly, with game design elements that may even go unnoticed by the user.

Implicit gamification focuses on integrating game mechanics, dynamics, and elements seamlessly into the user experience, making them an integral part of the overall design. Users may not perceive the experience as a traditional game but are still motivated and engaged by the underlying game-like elements present in the design.

Implicit gamification focuses on integrating game mechanics, dynamics, and elements seamlessly into the user experience,

B. Examples of implicit gamification:

1.  LinkedIn Progress Bar: On LinkedIn, the progress bar that fills up as users complete their profile is an example of implicit gamification. Users are not explicitly told that they are playing a game, but the progress bar acts as a visual representation of their profile completion and motivates them to reach the goal. The use of a progress bar taps into users’ desire for completion and achievement.

2.  Wikipedia’s intrinsic motivation: Wikipedia harnesses intrinsic motivation as a form of implicit gamification. Users contribute content voluntarily without any external rewards, driven by their intrinsic motivation to share knowledge and contribute to a collaborative platform. The satisfaction of contributing to a valuable resource and the sense of community engagement serve as implicit game dynamics.

3.  Competitive bidding on eBay: eBay’s bidding system incorporates implicit gamification by leveraging social comparison and competition. Users engage in bidding wars to outbid others and win an item. The desire to outperform others and the excitement of winning create a sense of gamified experience, even though the primary purpose is online commerce.

The advantages of implicit gamification include its ease of implementation, as it can be incorporated into various contexts and user experiences without being overtly game-like. It can be appropriate in most situations and does not require explicit consent or user opt-in. However, a potential disadvantage is the risk of “lazy” design, where the subtle game dynamics are poorly executed or misaligned with the overall goals, leading to ineffective outcomes or even negative user experiences.

Designers need to be mindful of striking the right balance between implicit gamification and the user’s expectations and objectives. While implicit gamification can be convenient to implement, it still requires thoughtful design and consideration of the target audience to ensure that the game elements enhance the user experience and drive desired outcomes effectively.

Implicit vs. Explicit Gamification: Choosing the Right Approach

A. Considering project objectives and target market:

When deciding between implicit and explicit gamification, it is crucial to consider the specific objectives of your project and understand your target market. Different projects may have different goals, and the preferences of the target audience can vary significantly. It is essential to align the chosen gamification approach with the desired outcomes and the characteristics of the intended users.

Some user groups may be more inclined to participate in games and enjoy explicit gamification experiences. They may appreciate the playful and creative elements that explicit gamification offers. On the other hand, certain target markets, such as enterprise firms, banks, or manufacturers, may perceive explicit gamification as childish, non-serious, or distracting. Understanding the expectations and preferences of your target market is crucial in selecting the appropriate approach.

B. Customization and effectiveness in gamification:

Gamification should never be approached as a one-size-fits-all solution. Each project requires a thoughtful and customized design to effectively engage and motivate users. Both implicit and explicit gamification can incorporate the eight core drives of Octalysis to drive user behavior and achieve desired outcomes.

Implementing explicit gamification often requires more resources and investment to create high-quality game-like experiences. However, when executed well, explicit gamification can captivate users and keep them engaged for longer periods, leading to better business results. The advantage of explicit gamification lies in its playfulness and the freedom it provides to designers to explore creative game design elements.

Implicit gamification, on the other hand, is technically easier to implement and can be appropriate in a wide range of contexts. It seamlessly integrates game elements into the user experience, making them less obvious but still effective in motivating and engaging users. The advantage of implicit gamification is its convenience and versatility.

However, designers may overlook the importance of carefully designing the subtle game dynamics, leading to ineffective or ill-formed experiences. It is crucial to strike the right balance and ensure that the implicit game elements are well-aligned with the project objectives and effectively drive the desired business metrics.

The choice between implicit and explicit gamification depends on the purpose of the project and the characteristics of the target market.

The choice between implicit and explicit gamification depends on the purpose of the project and the characteristics of the target market. Understanding the objectives, contextual landscape, and cultural expectations is vital in determining the most appropriate approach. Regardless of the chosen approach, gamification requires a sophisticated design to create a long-lasting relationship between the player and the game maker. By customizing the gamification experience and incorporating the right game elements, designers can create effective and engaging experiences that resonate with their users.

Gamification is indeed a powerful tool for engaging users and motivating behavior. By understanding the different types of gamification and considering business objectives, target users, and cultural expectations, designers and practitioners can create impactful gamification strategies that drive meaningful results. Gamification is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and careful consideration of these factors will lead to the successful integration of gamification in various fields and contexts.

To find out more how gamification can be applied to achieve your business objective reach out to our team of experts to learn more.