Gamification is a fascinating subject.  Of course, at Friendefi we’re highly biased given that gamification is at the heart of our business model.  So to share our passion about this practice, we’re writing a short series to elaborate on what it’s all about, why it works, and its applications for consumer loyalty and engagement.

In this first instalment, we’ll attempt to define gamification and examine the perspectives of others who have similarly commented on the practice.

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To kick things off, let’s take a look at what gamification is and what it isn’t.  Recently, we read an article entitled The Gamification of Retail Banking Services (http://thefinancialbrand.com/25728/gamification-in-retail-banking), which described gamification as “a deliberate effort to make a product or service more “sticky” by using gaming psychology to ingrain desired behaviors.”  The article further explained:

The main principles of gamification are:


– to encourage continued engagement in an activity by using game mechanics; and

– to encourage participants to modify behavior(s) based on optimal game strategies.

This isn’t a bad definition of gamification, but it’s limiting and misses some key points.

But before we criticize another’s attempt at explaining our favourite subject, we’ll share our own preferred definition by Kevin Werbach, Associate Professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, who describes gamification as “the use of game techniques and design elements in non-game contexts.”

This definition is admittedly not sexy, but it is broader and doesn’t limit itself to commercial applications such as marketing.  We feel this is important, because gamification is about motivating specific behaviours and actions and can be applied well beyond consumer marketing.  And though gamification is often used to motivate sustained behaviour changes through habit formation, as the above article highlights, its applications don’t have to be long-term by definition. These are important points, which we’ll come back to throughout this series with specific examples.

Another way to think about gamification is described in the following quote by Michael Wu, Ph.D:

“At the most fundamental level, gamification is the use of game mechanics to drive game-like engagement and actions. The logic is dead simple. People love to play games. But in everyday life, we are often presented with activities we hate, whether it is boring chores or stressful work. Gamification is the process of introducing game mechanics into these abhorred activities to make them more game-like (i.e. fun, rewarding, desirable, etc.), so that people would want to proactively take part in these tasks.”

(To hear more from Michael Wu, see his video from the 2011 Gamification Summit: http://fora.tv/2011/09/16/Michael_Wu_The_Science_of_Gamification).

Again we don’t entirely agree with the perspective being communicated, as gamification doesn’t only apply to activities that people “abhor”.  In fact, many activities people enjoy can be ‘turbo-charged’ with game mechanics to further increase people’s engagement with them.  This is important as gamification, even in its most compelling form, is unlikely to convince someone to do something they “hate”.  Rather, done well, gamification can help overcome low motivation or low comfort in performing tasks.

Finally, we’d like to add the perspective of a once great philosopher who said: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!” The philosopher in question is the fictional character, Mary Poppins, who rightly points out that many activities and tasks have the potential to be intrinsically enjoyable and that this can be ‘unlocked’ when the people doing those activities approach the work with a playful or game-like attitude.

Image “Snap – the job’s a game!”

But how can this playfulness or game-like attitude be created or enhanced?  Well, as promised, we’ll take a look at several examples throughout this series.  Stay tuned for more…

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