What games did you play when you were a kid?
I grew up in the country, although these days where I come from would be called a suburb thanks to the inner city sprawl and super fast trains. My childhood days were made up of collecting bucket loads of blackberries, collecting tadpoles from our dam, racing my neighbours up hills and challenging my brothers by bike to see who could ride into town the fastest. A moment rarely passed when I was not participating in some form of game.
When I went to school, playtime did not stop once lunchtime was over. I remember my teachers setting book-reading goals; I remember tallying up how many times our school principal said ‘community’ in his school assembly speeches and I certainly recall going through the school diary to work out exactly what criteria I needed to meet in order to get as many badges (we called them ‘colours’) on my blazer pocket as possible. Over-achiever? Competitive? Goal orientated? I will let you decide. I just wanted to experience the ups and downs that come with taking on a variety of challenges and the thrill you get when you accomplish what you were chasing.
Fast forward to where I sit today—late 20s, post-graduate, working in corporate education. Are the days of fun and games over now I wear a suit instead of a paint-stained art smock? While my office is certainly absent of tadpoles, swings, slides and blackberries, to the left of me there is a scoreboard displaying our eNewsletter subscriber goal for this year. Downstairs at my favourite coffee hangout, there is a list of the top three coffee drinkers (yes, I am very surprised I have not made the list, but I am working on it!), and every night I set myself a personal goal to see how fast I can run from work to home. Is playtime over after the final school bell rings? No!
In the corporate education world, we love a good buzzword and at the moment I love ‘gamification’. According to Bunchall (2010) gamification: is defined as follows ...
At its root (gamification), applies the mechanics of gaming to non-game activities to change people’s behaviour. When used in a business context, gamification is the process of integrating game dynamics (and game mechanics) into a website, business service, online community, content portal, or marketing campaign in order to drive participation and engagement1.
While researching this article I was surprised to find out that I in fact have been participating in this world of gamification prior to coming across the term. I, like most of my peers fancy social media and Foursquare is just one of the many platforms I regularly use. I love collecting virtual badges and I would be lying if I said to you I didn’t get a thrill when I became The Mayor2 of my favourite café and when it’s taken away from me I want to swiftly get it back.
If the Southern Cross staircase was transformed into this staircase, instead of racing up them, I would be the one attempting to play chop sticks in my corporate dress and high heels!
Is gamification just a novel way of tapping into the inner child within all of us? Is gamification just a way of making us feel OK about bringing our competitive nature to work? Is it an effective mechanism we can use to bring us back to how we felt when we wore our school blazers adorned with stitched badges proudly? Yes, yes and yes!
If you are part of the 70 per cent3 of large companies who use one form of gaming technique for at least one business process, what type of games are you playing? If your company is yet to venture onto this playing field maybe you could be the one who brings the nostalgia of your school days back?
So, my fellow blackberry pickers, I don’t know about you but I am really excited that organisations are beginning to discover the value of playtime. I much prefer to spend my days on a playing field, where daily tasks are like levels in a video game you need to pass and where the built-up atmosphere of office stress is replaced by excitement, friendly competitiveness and engagement.
Fiorletta, A. (2012), ‘Leading retailers use gamification to boost customer engagement and loyalty’, Retail TouchPoints, 13 March http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/shopper-engagement/1449-leading-retailers-use-gamification-to-boost-customer-engagement-and-loyalty- (accessed 19 March 2012).
Lemos, M. (2011), ‘Infographic: Gamification on the rise’, 42 Terabytes, 14 December http://www.42terabytes.com/infographic-gamification/ (accessed 19 March 2012).
Lee, J. J. & Hammer, J. (2011), ‘Gamification in education: What, how, why bother?’, Academic Exchange Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 2 http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/files/Lee-Hammer-AEQ-2011.pdf (accessed 19 March 2012).
Some common techniques that have been applied to gamification projects, such as:
- progress bars
- activity feeds
- real-time feedback
- virtual currency
- challenges and quests
- trophy case
- unlocking badges in Foursquare for visiting new or unique places.
- Bunchball (2010) Gamification 101: An Introduction to the Use of Game Dynamics to Influence Behavior http://www.bunchball.com/sites/default/files/downloads/gamification101.pdf (accessed 19 March 2012).
- Mayorships are based on the most *days* with check-ins in the past 60 days (you could have more check-ins overall but fewer check-ins over the past 60 days). Keep in mind that you might find yourself neck and neck with another user who is checking in to the venue often, in which case that's all part of the fun!
- Silverman, R. E. (2011), ‘Latest game theory: Mixing work and play’, Wall Street Journal, 10 October.