What if life were a game? If life were a game, we would all be going about our daily lives trying to score points. We would feel obligated to learn the rules of the game, and we would go out of our way trying to avoid losing points.
We would still be having fun at play, but only in a structured manner, as not obeying the rules could result in losing points. What a silly world we would live in if life were seen as a game!
Wait a second.. To some extent, life itself does appear a bit like a game, does it not?
Driving a car
What if driving a car were a game? If driving a car were a game, we would all be going about on four wheels on the public roads trying to overcome the challenges of mobility, location and timely presence.
We would feel inclined to learn the rules of the game if it meant that not knowing the rules would exclude you from participation. And driving a car can be great fun, as many will agree.
And after the rules have been learnt, what fun would this game be if there were no challenges left for experienced players? Like for example, avoid losing points to a monster?
Wait a second..
Lets Play a Game
What, actually, is a “game”? A game could be said to be structured play. See the definition from Wikipedia
What does it mean “to play”?
It could be said that to “Play” is to engage in any free activity standing consciously outside of normal life as if it were not serious, while at the same time it is absorbing you, the player, intensely and utterly.
Structuring activities according to, at least, the key components of a game like goals, rules, challenges and interaction, should then construct a game, at least as long as it is undertaken for the purpose of enjoyment, recreation, and sometimes as an instrument for education.
Hang on a second, is that definition still correct? Or could it be that we are in need of a new definition, a new understanding of the phenomena of games and the increasingly important role that games have come to play in in our lives in the age of the internet? Perhaps so.
It is a fact that games have been played for thousands of years. They have appeared in all cultures and are a universal part of human experiences.
Game definiton by Wikipedia:
Games have become ever more relevant in that way. They have somehow begun to have an increasing role in how society is shaped and functions, and also takes up a seemingly ever increasing amount of our time if one were able to measure in hours the amount of time spent participation in all types of gaming.
All this is helped greatly by the availability of modern technology, of course, while being exposed to games and being subject to game dynamics is something that has become ever more common.
So if it is clear that games matter, why then does gamification matter?
The best way to describe gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.
It has been applied in hundreds of cases in the areas of physical exercise, increased user engagement, return on investment, data quality improvement, timekeeping, entertainment, teaching, loyalty, performance management and usability.
The reason that game thinking and game mechanics are used in these areas is because when it is done in the right way, it simply works.
At the same time, if your gamification project is no fun to play, it will not work.
What separates the wheat from the chaff must therefor be valuable insight.
Ultimately, the good news is that it is the players themselves who ultimately decide the success of your gamification project.
And that is why gamification matters.