Gamification: What and Why

Let’s face it. Our attention spans are shortening and our patience dwindling. Additionally, social media, smart devices, and other digital technology have reinforced our expectation of instant gratification. So how do we feed the reward system that has taken hold of us? We borrow from something the new generation entering the workforce knows all too well. We use gamification.

What is gamification? Despite its name (pronounced game-ification), it has very little to do with playing a game and more to do with encouraging behavior. Gamification can best be defined as using game attributes and mechanics to encourage “player” behavior outside a game environment. For example, the social media app Foursquare encourages people to “check in” to locations in the real world and rewards users with high levels of check-ins with badges (which then get sent to a virtual trophy case of sorts). The company isn’t a game company, and the user is doing something very real and tangible but is getting rewarded for using the service with a small token of acknowledgment.

So why has “gamification,” a new marketing buzzword, become so widely used? Because your behavior has been driven by it on websites, social media, and mobile apps. Your fitness app has a progress bar that tells you how much farther you have to run to complete this week’s goal. The social app ranks your usage against your friends, driving you to continue using the app in order to be number one. The website forum you visit allows your comments to be voted on and ranked, encouraging quality participation and collaboration for the best information.

Gamification draws on a lot of our natural instincts––competition, collaboration, gratification, learning, and wanting to feel involved––and everyone from marketers to user-interface designers know it. Because “gamified” content gives us what we want, we’re more likely to engage with it. User participation and community interaction increases, monthly visits and average time on a website increases, and page views and actions taken before logging out are increased. All of these are highly valued statistics in digital business.

At the end of the day, however, gamification isn’t the end-all solution. As with every new phenomenon that enters the marketing sphere, this is just a tool to use to enhance what you already offer. This tool specializes in increasing interaction with a product and can be used to that advantage. So make room in your quiver––you may have another arrow to stock.

Author: Zack Smith


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