Engaginglab / Gamification

What is Gamification? (without using the standard definition)

If someone talks about a game that fascinates him he doesn’t talk about the +200 Xpoints he got because he found a virtual good and he is also not talking about how amazing it was to build a new house on his street while playing Monopoly.
But he is talking about the challenges that are hard to overcome. He talks about his efforts and try & errors till he finally got the solution. He is talking about the story, missions and challenges that he is facing.
And talking about all these happenings, what he really means is how the game challenged him, made him progressing, learning and get better than he was before. And this means: He experienced some kind of fulfillment.

And I’m not talking about a little: “yeah, I’ve got it”. I’m talking about a rush of dopamin that is being released inside your brain. And that’s nothing particular just for gamers. Play is nature’s learning engine. It was an evolutionary process that these species that were able to learn (means to adapt to changes in their environment) faster than others were better prepared to survive. Therefore, evolution had to come up with a tool that rewards us for doing great in the sense of surviving…that is to say: learning.

So, think about it: You love to get things done. You love to achieve benefit from your activities. You love to get smarter. And you love it to be involved in an activity that challenges you entirely. Remember the last time you lost track of time? There it was… an activity that needed all your focus, right? And did you like it? I bet you can’t remember any time that you lost track of time while doing something you didn’t like. “Wow, five hours? It felt like one.”

But the fact is that most people are very enthusiastic about all sorts of games and things in their lives yet go to work with no sense of enthusiasm or fun. Why is this?

A Game provides us for example with immediate feedback and the perfect ratio between the challenges we are facing and the skills of its player. They make it possible for us to achieve the state of “Flow” (one of the most intrinsic rewarding mental state a human is able achieve).
Games are able to do this by design. And I’m not talking about graphic-design.

The idea of Gamification is to use what we know about motivational- and behavioral-psychology and to merge it with the powerful tool of Games: creating opportunities for mastering (progress), immerdiate feedback, meaningful choices and some kind of meaning (collaboration for a something epic).

So, Gamification is a framework that uses similar elements like games to let us experience the most powerful emotions we know about (besides love) : Fulfillment and enjoyment.

We are hardwired to this emotions. It is build into our DNA. So, why not use gamification-thinking to ‘fix’ the activities in reality that aren’t able to give us what we want. If the gaming industry can do it – we can do it. 🙂


6 thoughts on “What is Gamification? (without using the standard definition)

    • Thanks Yu-kai for your post. Great to see that there are some guys with similar thinking about Gamification 🙂 I think we will have some interesting conversations in the future. Looking forward to get more feedback on my posts…

      • Sounds great. Always looking to learn more from people who are actually mastering the craft of Gamification instead of just saying, “Oh yea, put badges on your site!” 😉

  1. Nice blog on what gamificaiton is, I did come across recent articles on what has been described as Dopamin Marketing and using Gamification to trigger dopamin response from players. I think this is well suited to external gamificaiton but when we think of Internal gamification we need to reinforce Intrinsic Motivation, to much extrinsic motivation can have a negative affect on users, so gamificaiton must balance the reward element of the game to keep it fresh and interesting.

    • Hi Harry, thanks for your words. Of course you are right. Intrinsic motivation is the ‘holy grail’ for Gamification. The question is what effects intrinsic motivation? And this is about the process of the activity and not the rewards. The rewards are the results but the porcess is what counts. It is all about the experiences. If you master a challenge (Fiero); if you create meaning for other persons and help them to master (naches); if you get smarter, deepens your social-relationships, and so on…
      The extrinsic rewards are just ‘a communication tool’ to say: “Hey, good job”. And of course this is also a motivator. But the real value comes out of the activities…

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