What is Gamification?

What is Gamification?

Gamification what is it exactly, and why would we want to add games to the work place, after all the work place is supposed to be a place of work, not a place where we go to play games. While the word Gamification is relatively new the concept of having fun at work goes back almost 40 years to a gentlemen named Charles Coonradt, who asked the question ““Why would people pay for the privilege of working harder at their chosen sport or recreational pursuit than they would work at a job where they are being paid?” He recognized early on that people worked harder at sports and activities outside the workplace then inside. He recognized five fundamental principles:

Clearly defined goals
Better scorekeeping and scorecards
More frequent feedback
A higher degree of personal choice of methods
Consistent coaching

Clearly these five principles are the building block of modern gamification. But still this does answer what exactly is Gamification. The most accepted wide spread answer to this is that gamification is the application of game like elements or design into non-gaming applications. As gamification as we know it today has been around for more than a decade it has grown to mean much more than just adding a few game like elements to make what you are doing more fun.

But what is a game? Jesse Schell offers up this definition of “a game is a problem-solving activity approached with playful attitude.” Kevin Werbach a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, and designer of the Courseara Gamification course, tells us a that a game provides the environment, the structures and the rules that allow you to make choices to move through the various pathways to the finish. One of the early concepts of games is from Johan Huizinga, who gave us the concept of the Magic Circle where “the magic circle of a game is where the game takes place, to play a game means entering into a magic circle, or perhaps creating one as a game begins.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Circle_%28virtual_worlds%29)

So there is a concept of being drawn in and therefore we can say that games have boundaries, and players are drawn into an environment that provides structure and rules. Some games have very tight rules that limit what a player to what they can do, take for instance board games such as Monopoly vs. the World of Warcraft where the rules are structures are more loosely coupled allowing the player much more freedom. Now looking at our early concept of games, we can see that in Monopoly the clearly defined goal is to win by bankrupting your opponents this game takes a few hours. While in World of Warcraft, the are multiple goals all competing for your attention, Goals to Level, Goals to acquire Equipment, Goals to kill mobs either as a single player or in small groups or large raids, and even has a common element to monopoly, in what is called PvP (player vs. player) you fight and kill your opponent.

Gamification of course means more than what I have described above, but I wanted to give you a flavor or taste of gamification. Hopefully as I get more time, we can continue this journey together to learn about gamification.

Cheers Harry


3 thoughts on “What is Gamification?

  1. Indeed the topic has a lot of places to branch out into. I’m actually trying to identify the advantages of Gamification in Professional training. Maybe in a few years, more research will support this.

    • There is a lot of work being done in training, companies are developing gamification frameworks for delivering training in a manor that is more condusive to learning. Gamification is not meant to be on its own, training is not a game, it is serious stuff, but the idea is to add elements of play, that can help strengthen the learning and the engagement. My 500 words do not fully show what gamification, it was meant to give a basic understanding of where it came from. For training, try a the book “The Multiplayer Classroom” by Lee Sheldon, it is one of my favorite books.

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