Couple of months ago, Coursera introduced a new course called Gamification. I must admit that it didn’t sound too interesting to me – I thought it was about creating computer games, and I don’t really care much for those. (OK, I’ve done my share of crop harvesting, if you know what I mean, but I’m not exactly proud of it. :) )
After talking to couple of my friends who explained the basic concept to me, I’ve started reading more about the subject and found it very interesting! As it turned out, I was wrong – gamification is not about creating games. It is about providing game-like experience to almost anything. It can be used in many areas, for example, in schools – to make learning more interesting to the children; in gyms – to stimulate people to workout more; even in traffic, to reduce speeding. It is relatively new concept and it can be defined in the following way:
Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.
It is important to understand that gamification has nothing to do with the actual games. It is not about making people play more WoW or Angry Birds. On the contrary, it focuses on ‘serious’ subjects, which are not typically percieved as fun.
There are three main applications of gamification:
- external – applied to subjects out of our system (company or organization), where we wish somehow to gamify our customers’ experience in using our products or services;
- internal – within the system boundaries – in motivating the employees to work toward some shared company goal;
- behavior change – trying to make people change certain behavior and do something they know they should, but it is just hard. e.g. lose weight.
What interests me the most is gamification use in software products, i.e. how to make people more engaged in an application or site and assure they return to it. Basically, it is done by making the whole experience more fun. Even if you’ve never heard of the gamification before, you’ve probably been exposed to its elements like badges, leader boards, progress bars, rewards, virtual currencies, countdowns, questing, and exchanging points. But, don’t get me wrong – people are NOT going to use your site more just because you’ve put some badges and leader boards on it! In fact, this kind of thinking could make your users go away! You will find many websites on the Internet having really poor gamification design, with all the elements there, but simply missing the ‘fun’ part. That’s one of the reasons the whole concept is so interesting and appealing to me – it’s not as easy as it sounds!
I recommend this video as a starting point:
If you are intrigued with the subject, you may enroll to next MOOK on Coursera here.
– TO BE CONTINUED –