Theory of Gamification - June 24, 2021


Your business is not a game, but it can get just as engaging!

2011, Stockholm, Sweden

A woman receives a postcard that says “Thank you for respecting the speed limit! Your name has now entered the Speedcam Lottery! If your name gets extracted, you will win the prize fund, which is enriched through fines that speeders paid. Slowing down has never been more rewarding, don’t you think?”

This easy yet brilliant idea was conceived by the American designer Kevin Richardson who indeed, won the first place in the Volkswagen Fun Theory competition. Sweden took the chance and implemented the idea in Stockholm. Over three days 24,857 cars drove by and the average cruise speed decreased from 32 kilometers per hour to 25 kilometers per hour!

So… what happened?

Basically, the Swedish citizens have been seduced into making a specific action i.e. slowing down, by a gamification strategy. Gamification is an engaging method that can be applied to many situations. If you feel the need to use this persuasive tool in your business, whether toward customers or employees, you are in the right place.

In this article you’ll learn about gamification, we’ll give you a few useful definitions, some evidence of the power it has on users and a few cases where this method led to outstanding outcomes.

Enjoy the read!

gamification strategy of the Speedcam Lottery

The main concept behind gamification is basically turning a boring / demanding / annoying activity into something engaging by making it fun, shaping it as a game.

You might think though, isn’t this method only appealing for gamers and for those used to the patterns of games?

First of all, we need to debunk the common stereotype of the young-lazy-unemployed-single gamer depicted in movies. Studies and statistics have proved that gaming has, in the last decade, crossed ages, genders and status.

Check these stats out!

“In 2020 women accounted for nearly 41% of all gamers in the US and in Asia […] women now make up 40-45% of the Asian gaming population


And in another interesting study which we highly recommend you to read, it claims that “by the end of 2019, 45% of all gamers in China were female. And while Southeast Asia as a whole has a lower average percentage of female gamers than China, Indonesia is a notable standout — nearly half (49%) of the country’s mobile gamers are female”.

Moreover, American  gamers’ age ranges from under 18 to 65+: according to statistics 68%of American adults are gamers while 70% of American teenagers are gamers. 

All these numbers show how fast and broadly people are getting used (and passionate) about game dynamics Game dynamics define the patterns of how the game and the players will evolve over some time.Some player might prefer competition, some other may seek social collaboration. The game dynamics tailor mechanics on the emotions that engage the player., turning into high-potential target for gamification strategies.

Secondly, although gamers and gamification are strictly correlated, it is not only gamers who would fall “under the spell” but a wider range of people would feel engaged, thanks to the intrinsic psychological attractiveness behind these techniques. 

Foto di Tima Miroshnichenko da Pexels

Let’s dive into the definitions to better understand this concept. 

According to the scientific paper written by Deterding, Dixon et al. “From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining Gamification”, the right definition is hard to pinpoint since this phenomenon is not only far-reaching but also open to interpretation. The Authors though, suggest this definition:

“Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”

Deterding, Dixon et al.

A definition is due in order to differentiate this phenomenon from similar ones such as “serious games” and “pervasive games”, which have been broadly used in recent years.

Serious games, not only include elements of games but are full-fledged games (in contrast to gamified applications) which have been created for educational purposes and to help the user assimilate specific rules and behaviors. Many examples can be found especially in military contexts such as war games and radar or flight simulators. But a plethora of other uses is available, whenever a certain type of knowledge needs to be acquired, from business contexts (decision-making process simulations) to security (disaster scenarios simulation) to recruitment.

Pervasive games instead, are proper games with entertainment purposes which go beyond the normal boundaries of the videogame, either spatially, temporally or socially. Think of the über-famous Pokémon Go. It takes the user out in the street looking for virtual Pokémons. Some other games instead, keep running even when not played and can therefore be entered continually.

Summing up, serious games are applied in non-game contexts but are still proper games, and pervasive games are proper games applied in an entertainment context. Gamification instead borrows some elements from games and takes them to a software, an application or wherever needed, to reach a specific purpose which is quite never of entertainment.

Another scientific paper written by Huotari and Hamari in 2016, gives yet another definition: 

“Gamification refers to a process of enhancing a service with affordances for gameful experiences in order to support users’ overall value creation.”

Huotari and Hamari in 2016

While academics discuss and decide which is the best definition for such a complicated phenomenon, we can find, around us, already many techniques extracted from video games and implemented in other non-related businesses: from health care to administration to education, just to name a few. 

Some of the most used game elements include:

  • Goals, to give a direction to the action and to spice it up a little
  • Rules, because otherwise it would be too easy and boring to reach the goal
  • Challenges/quests, which is the hard and stimulating part
  • Feedbacks, to cheer up and to keep us updated on how close we are to the goal 
the four elements of games

More to come

Did you know that when you are caught in a captivating activity, your brain gets into a specific mode called “the flow state?”

And did you know that, thanks to gamified research, a gamer was able to solve an AIDS-related theoretical issue that scientists weren’t able to solve in 15 years?

Follow us to find out more about gamification. It’s game time!

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