What is gamification?

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Simply put, gamification is the act of applying game features to everyday life tasks. But in reality, gamification is a great superpower if applied correctly.

A new old story

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The art of turning an ordinary task into something more like a game is not new. Throughout history humans have tried to make tasks more intriguing, motivating, and even fun. When a group of people decide to compete with each other in hunting or gathering, or simply start to keep track of their activities and compare them with each other, they are adopting principles that are prevalent in modern games and making the activities more motivating.

Of course, as games have evolved through the centuries, the art of making things like games has, too. With all the technologies and advances in science today, our ability to design and implement better experiences has dramatically improved. To the point that now there are sophisticated and subtle gaming experiences in every aspect of our lives. From education, work, marketing, parenting, sustainability to health and research.

The true meaning of gamification

Games have the amazing ability to keep people motivated for long periods of time, build meaningful relationships between people, and develop creative potential.

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But then, why isn't the same thing happening with many of the other tasks we perform on a daily basis? Why do we consider our work tedious to the point of considering that work and fun are two different and incompatible things? Why would people pay for the privilege of training harder in their chosen sport or recreational activity and not in a job that pays them?

The answer is very simple and at the same time very complex. The tasks that we consider tedious, problematic or just necessary, are simply poorly designed or were designed without thinking about the human being who would perform them.

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Most systems are inherently "function-focused," that is, designed to get work done quickly. This is like a factory that assumes that its workers will do their jobs because they are obligated to do so, not because they necessarily want to perform the associated tasks. This bad design is what causes that feeling that our work is not fun.

Contrary to what we normally find in society as "Function Focused Design", Gamification is "Human Focused Design", which optimizes human motivation in a system instead of optimizing pure functional efficiency within the system. .

At its core, human-centered design emphasizes that people are not rudimentary cogs in a system. We have feelings, ambitions, insecurities, and reasons why we want to or not do certain things. Human-centered design optimizes these feelings, motivations, and commitment as the basic basis for designing the overall system, as well as its functions.

A good design based on gamification

How do I want my users to feel? Do I want them to be inspired? Do I want them to be proud? Should they be afraid? Eager? What is my goal for the planned experience? Once the designer understands how he wants his users to feel, he begins to think, "Okay, what kinds of game elements and mechanics can help me achieve my goals of ensuring that players feel that way."

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The solution may lie in swords, plants, or perhaps word puzzles, but the point here is that the elements of the game are just a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. The elements of the game are simply there to drive and pull the core behavioral drives of its users.

Now imagine if there is a really addictive game, where the more time you spend on it, the more productive you become. You would be playing and enjoying all day. Your career would improve as your income increased, you would experience better relationships with your family, you would create value for your community, and you would solve the world's most challenging problems.

Through gamification, we can look through the lens of games to understand how to combine different game mechanics and techniques to form desired and joyful experiences for everyone.

Gamification promise

What exactly can gamification do? Does it really create value and return measurable results, or is it just a nifty new fad with no lasting impact?

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Now imagine a world in which there is no longer a division between what you need to do and what you want to do. Where everything is fun and engaging, and you really want to wake up every morning to face the challenges that lie ahead. Heavy work takes on new meaning when understood as an effect of powerful motivational factors. This is the promise and vision that a good gamification design can generate.

Yu-kai Chou, Gamification Expert

Currently there are many experts and others not so much who speak well or badly about these gamification issues and how to apply it to improve different systems. Of some of them, the one that I liked the most how he approached the whole subject is Mr. Yu-kai Chou.

Yu-kai Chou is an international author and keynote speaker on gamification and behavior design. He is the original creator of the Octalysis Framework and author of Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. He is currently Chairman of The Octalysis Group and founder of Octalysis Prime, a gamified tutoring platform. Yu-kai has been a regular speaker / lecturer on gamification and motivation around the world, including at organizations such as Google, Stanford University, LEGO, Tesla, TEDx, Boston Consulting Group, Turkish Airline, Huawei, UK governments, Singapore, South Korea, Kingdom of Bahrain and many more. His work has affected the experiences of more than a billion users around the world.

In other articles I will be expanding more on Yu-kai Chou's book and on his gamification framework "Octalysis". In my opinion, the way he approaches the whole issue of gamification is just great, very easy to understand.

This is just one of a series of articles that I have written on gamification. If you are interested, I invite you to also read the rest of them from my username.

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