IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2015 - 31
Gamification, the concept of applying game thinking and mechanics to real-world processes,
has only existed for a few years, but it's already had a tumultuous tenure. It's been hailed
as both the solution to engaging millennials in the workforce and in growing customer bases
exponentially. Fast Company recently declared "2015 will be remembered as the year gamification
turned the corner, passing from hype to productivity." Forbes magazine echoed the sentiment,
calling 2015 "the year gamification migrates from a few isolated pilots to a new way to engage
and recognize high performing employees." Others have called it an overblown, overhyped
concept that's little more than a vaguely defined buzzword.
Gamification was among the one-hundred fifty new words Merriam Webster added to the dictionary last year, a list that included "selfie" as well as "crowdfunding." And yet, in a recent poll
by Penna Business Management, 89% of employees admitted they didn't know what the term
meant. Merriam-Webster defines gamification as "the process of adding game or gamelike
elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation." But gamification evangelists
would undoubtedly argue the concept is much broader: it's about engaging users and influencing
their behavior in specific ways, building brand loyalty, and encouraging collaboration.
In general, "gaming" processes can be split into two camps: customer engagement and employee
motivation. Engaging customers with gamification techniques can be as straightforward
as launching a loyalty program or utilizing the concept of "badge-earning" and rewarding
customers for repeat business. The Dallas Art Museum recently came up with a new twist
on this concept by moving to free general admission and allowing museum members to earn
points with each visit, which can then be used toward admission fees for paid special exhibitions.
Other examples are more directly related to use of a specific product. Hybrid cars utilize dashboards that provide users with real time information about the efficiency of their driving.
A major healthcare innovation company is bringing a product to market that connects a patient's
nebulizer to a video game, which responds to the device's use. The product, initially developed
by the father of a boy with cystic fibrosis, links the user's virtual performance to the real life act
of taking medication. In one game, steady inhalation, and exhalation controls at hot air balloon
moving across the sky, attempting to avoid obstacles in its path.
Human Resources departments are increasingly advocating for the use of gaming principles
in the workplace as a way to attract, retain, and motivate employees-particularly millennials,
who, according to a recent Gallup poll, are the least engaged amongst all employees. Gamifying
processes, like intranet sites where employees earn badges for their level of activity and engagement, can help democratize the workplace, giving employees opportunities to show their best
work and providing a vehicle to contribute their ideas and suggestions.
These applications of game theory are starting to gain momentum in the design world-
suggesting the essence of design and gaming may be more closely related than we think.