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Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-game situations to drive user engagement and behaviour. The idea is to bring the successful concept of gaming to other areas of industry that can benefit from the tools that have made the gaming industry so successful.

The concept of using game mechanics outside of gaming is not new. The health, education and marketing industries have been using them for years. Frequent flyer and supermarket loyalty schemes are strong examples of using points programmes to maintain customer commitment to a brand. In education the use of games to engage children in learning is long established, while the health industry, too, has utilised game mechanics to funnel human behaviour - from weight-loss point schemes to anti-smoking incentives.

Nintendo’s Wii Fit and Rexbox’s ‘Epic Win’ iPhone app are recent examples of companies successfully gamifying mundane tasks. The Wii Fit brought fun to exercise, while Epic Win is a task management app that rewards users when they complete their personal to-do lists. Game consoles and Smartphone applications are becoming ingrained in people’s lives as consumers, and small businesses, seek to manage their lives through apps that can help boost productivity and enjoyment. In previous decades, applications were something that you only had exposure to at work – now they are freely available at the tap of a touch screen.

Why would gaming concepts be useful in business?

The core game mechanics are: progression, feedback and behavioural1.

  • Behavioural: providing the correct features to meet the needs of differing personality types.
  • Feedback: enabling the user to learn from their actions.
  • Progression: enabling the user to earn more as they progress.

These mechanics have the sole purpose of keeping users engaged for as long as possible. This has proved phenomenally successful in the games industry. In 2010, 500 million games were sold globally! The objective in business is the same – to keep both staff and customers engaged, and to make money in the process.

The opportunities available from this concept are very exciting. Any business application from business intelligence, CRM and accounting to service management and training can use gameplay to increase productivity, collaboration and innovation. Processes, too, can be molded around these ideas to make them more easily followed and embraced.

These elements can be gamified by introducing funbased dynamics such as:

  • Points and rewards
  • Social interaction
  • Levels
  • Challenges
  • Leader boards
  • Story boards

1 Gamification.org: accessed on 23rd July 2011