Gamification: Why Study Games?

A very interesting question came up today, talking about Gamification, first it is worth noting that the definition of Gamification as defined by Kevin Werbach from his coursera course states “Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.” The term has been in use for just over a decade now, but only in the last 2 – 3 years picked up steam. The definition while correct has evolved in meaning. I would suggest that if we want to remove the connotation of game from the definition, we could define Gamification as “the introduction of activities that are designed to motivate users to higher levels of engagement.”

We can learn a lot about engagement from games, with millions of people around the world going home every night and logging into the various offering of games, then playing for hours with no real world rewards other than the intrinsic value of doing something that a person enjoys. I was a gamer, I often spent as many hours a week playing as I did working. Now I doubt we will ever see this type of compulsive behavior in the work place, but we could dive in and study the arsenal that games use to engage players then apply them to our day to day jobs.

One thing about playing games whether it is an MMO, First Person Shooter or a simple board game, they offer up many common elements that engage players. Jane McGonical states from her book Reality is Broken that “No object, no event, no outcomes or life circumstances can deliver real happiness to us. We have to make our own happiness – by working hard at activities that provide their own reward.” Tom Chatfield (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/may/01/reality-broken-jane-mcgonigal-games) in review comments on McGonical by stating “Electronic games, seen in this light, are not just a medium or even an art form. They are potent engines for creating and enhancing emotional experience: for making our lives ‘better’.”

Organizations wrestle with that reward process, today’s organization are finding that engagement activates go beyond the “I do something, you give me something” extrinsic rewards. Another words I work you give me a pay check, or I buy something and you give me points, is not enough to drive todays Gen Y (millenniums) who grew up with cell phones and computers in the home. People want more out of the activities they do whether it is work or play, doing something that is meaningful and has purpose helps build that engagement factor. Lee Sheldon talks about the Multi-Player Classroom in his book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a game, why not take this one step further and look at a concept of the Multi-Player workplace, and start designing work places and jobs to bring intrinsic value to the jobs and tasks we perform every day.

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