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Gamification In Business

treeThe term “gamification” is usually defined as the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. Despite the fact that the term “gamification” is relatively recently used, the idea gamification is not so new.

Gamification mechanisms have been used by many companies and sectors of the economy for many years. An example here might be the hotel industry and aviation sector. Hotels have been using loyalty card systems, which are collected points earned by customers through the use of hotel services for the network. In turn, the aviation sector has been using a system depending on collection. For example, after collecting a certain amount of flight miles, customer gains the right to one free flight.
Besides gaining new customers; today gamification method is used in many different sectors to enrich contents, improve processes and train the audience on specific subjects. In order to increase contribution of this method to business results, intensive study should be done during design process and appropriate solutions should be selected carefully.

What is Game & Gamification?
According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, who is known for his studies in the fields of logic, semantics and philosophy of psychology, it is impossible to define the word “game”. But it is also true that we don’t need a definition, because even without the definition, we use the word successfully. Instead of making a definition it would be a better way to give examples of game in order to define the word. In his book “The Grasshopper”(1978); Philosophy professor Bernard Suits mentions Wittgenstein’s this definition of game and says that is nonsense. He makes the following definition: playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.

Taking these and many other definitions of game into account, we can say that game is a tool for fun with predetermined targets generally with a structured format. And for gamification we can say that it is applying game elements to non-game contexts. Gamification method aims at increasing loyalty by using interactivity and fun elements. This method might be used to increase utilization of a web page or to trigger its users’contributions to the content, to drive behavior changes or to encourage learning process.

Main Game Elements
According to Kevin Werbach, who is an expert in the field of gamification and is an Associate Professor at The Whartoon School, game structure has three main elements. These elements may be listed as “dymanics”,that form the general structure, “mechanics” that are the processes driving action forward and “components” which are specific instantiations of mechanics and Dynamics.

Dynamics are composed of the following: constraints, emotions, narrative of the game, progression, relationships. We can say that this part is the “grammer” of the game.

Challenges, chance, competition, cooperation, feedback, reward factors and win states in the game form the mechanics. These elements drive the action forward, in other words they are the “verbs”.

Achievements, avatars, badges, boss fights, collections, combat, content unlocking, gifting, leaderboards, levels, points, quests, social graph, teams and virtual goods are the components of a game. These elements are the “nouns” of the game.

For a successful game design, these main elements should be taken into consideration and should be effectively used. There should also be a meaningful connection between all steps and elements of the game.

Examples of Gamification
Many of the applications we are using today are in fact examples of gamification.

For instance Foursquare, who mastered to perfection the four main mechanisms “gamification” – points, levels, badges and leaders – is an application people use the check-in their places and locations. While using this application; the more places you check-in, the more points you win.

One of the most popular social platforms, linkedin.com, has a progress bar application for its users. This bar gives feedback to its users regarding their profile completion rate and encourages them to enter more information. The application is very simple but at the same time it is a great tool to improve the content of the platform.

Nowadays companies are using gamification to develop their products & services and also to train their employees. The term “serious games” is used to mention this type of applications. Microsoft’s “Windows Language Quality Game” is a very successful serious game example. The “Windows Language Quality Game” aimed to improve the linguistic quality of localized editions of Windows 7 with the help of Microsoft employees. While the language quality review work was not very difficult for native language speakers, it was also not the most interesting or engaging thing to do. So, game elements were used for design and to attract players. Level structure, badges and leaderboards were the main “components” of the game. The game lasted for one month and during this period more than 4,600 employees participated in the game. During the game just over 530,000 pages were monitored and more than 6,700 defects were reported. The results showed that the game was very productive and there was a significant improvement in the language quality.

Besides business life, there also exist gamification examples aiming to change social life for good. One of the best examples of this is an initiative by Volkswagen, entitled “thefuntheory” project. The project is ongoing since 2009 and their motto is “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better”. With respect to this aim, every year a competition is arranged via http://www.thefuntheory.com/ and the finalist projects are put into practice.

Within this context, “Speed Camera Lottery” project was put into practice in Stockholm. According to this project instead of just issuing penalties to speeders, every car that passed the checkpoint was photographed and those observing the limit entered a prize drawing a prize drawing to win the fines of the speeders. The modified camera gave instant positive feedback in the form of thumbs up. The effect was immediate, speed dropped at the checkpoint by an average of 22%, and consumers thought the idea was fantastic. This is a great example of game-thinking: Turning a negative loop into a positive one for the greater good.

In another project of thefuntheory, the following question was asked: Can we get more people to take the stairs over the escalator by making it fun to do? Again in Stockholm, the stairs at a subway entrance, which are near the escalator, were modified as piano keys. During the day following the modification, people’s behavior using the subway was monitored. The results were surprising: 66% more people than normal chose the stairs over the escalator.

Usage of gamification in many different sectors is becoming more popular day by day. Taking the participation rates in many different examples into consideration we can say that X generation is interested in this kind of applications as much as Y generation. Considering their positive contribution to business results and the attention they attract, it is possible to say these examples of gamification in business will continue to get more widespread.

Joshua Williams, R. S. (2009). Score One for Quality! Redmond , WA. Retrieved from http://www.42projects.org/docs/GTAC_LQG.PDF
Werbach, K. (2012, August 27). Coursera Gamification Course. Retrieved from Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/#course/gamification
http://gamification.org/wiki/Gamification. (2013, June 28). Retrieved June 28, 2013, from Gamification Wiki: http://gamification.org/wiki/Gamification

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