Gamification is the process of adding game mechanics to something to make it more enjoyable and interactive. A lot of website commercials now have mini-games you can play (although usually once you win the game, you are redirected to the companies website).
Jesse Schell gave a speech at DICE (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit in 2010, where he talked about the changing landscape for games designers. He talked about how one day every product you come in contact with in your daily life will be gamified. Imagine brushing your teeth in the morning, and your toothbrush rewarding you for brushing. Now imagine getting bonus points for brushing for a certain amount of time, or for brushing after breakfast and dinner. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use those points to, say, get discounts at your local shopping centre?
I’d like to see workplaces become more enjoyable through gamification as well… I used to have a job at a bank, and they had an online training program on every computer, linked to your staff ID. I got a kick out of getting the highest scores possible in every scenario. It was a great way of training staff (when they weren’t serving customers), but it made me think: Wouldn’t it be great if we had rewards for doing well at our jobs too? I mean not just the boss patting us on the back for a good sale, but something like an online leaderboard so you could have instant gratification once you’d done something good. “Oh look, Penny has referred five people to the reception to enquire about life insurance. She’s scored 500 points. If I want to be the best for today I need to process 30 more cash deposits or consolidate 10 more people’s accounts.”
I never quite had the motivation as some others to really put in hard work in some of my jobs, and I can understand that maybe these people do it by making it a game for themselves. But I think if everyone could be in on this game, we could all get a lot more done, and have a lot more fun doing it.
University is another institution that could benefit greatly from some gamification because there are some things at university that are outdated. Printing out and handing in assignments seems like an unnecessary inconvenience when everyone has Internet access and email. A lot of our marks in some subjects are for silly things as well, like documentation or attendance. It would be so awesome to be told that for every piece of assessment you do, you’ll be instantly added to a leaderboard (just like my example for the workplace). If I could be rewarded instantly for doing all my work whenever I wanted, I have no doubt that I’d work my ass off to get everything done in the first week or two to claim my place on the board. We need these exciting incentives to motivate us to work harder and better! There are so many ways that these systems could be implemented and I want to be one of the pioneers to help make it happen.
I get really excited by the opportunities that gamification offers us. We really can make our dull, boring jobs as exciting as a game of World of Warcraft (Blizzard, 2004). Video game designers know how to make tasks exciting, but we need to bring that into reality. Jane McGonnagal makes similiar points in her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World. If someone was merely told about what the day-to-day activities where in some MMOs, they’d probably think it was the most boring thing in the world. But gamers keep coming back, so there is definitely something we can learn from games to improve our reality.
Personally, I spend every free moment I have playing games. I can’t even imagine how productive I’d be if all aspects of my life were gamified.