There are many common myths and misconceptions surrounding gamification that can hinder its successful implementation as a marketing, business operations or learning strategy. If we can understand the true nature of gamification, we can potentially wield its positive strengths to help optimise any future projects and campaigns.
Gamification can be an exciting and effective approach to a task that enables users of all ages and backgrounds to become engaged in and enthusiastic about the task at hand. There has always been a stigma and misunderstanding around games and gamification, along with a lack of knowledge regarding the positive attributes they provide to non-game activities. With that in mind, it is not surprising that many people approach the concept incorrectly or avoid it all together.
Let’s explore some of the top myths, and the corresponding truths, surrounding gamification:
Myth 1: Gamification and games are the same thing
This is one of the most common myths going around within the conversation of gamification. At a glance, it’s quite easy to dismiss gamification as simply a game being incorporated into an activity, yet this would be a gross simplification.
To get right down to it, games are produced to primarily engage and entertain the audience with no real further targeted outcomes. Whereas brand recall, positive association, game-based learning, pipelined productivity and so on are all objectives and outcomes to differing gamification initiatives.
Gamification often is designed to have benefits beyond the experience for both the user and the implementor of the gamification initiative. For example, a general manager in a corporate setting may incorporate gamification elements into their office environment in the hopes of increasing productivity in the office with employees. Another example could be a company launching a gasified marketing campaign in the hopes that participants will have positive brand association with a reward they may have earned in the campaign.
Gamification is also a valuable tool for onboarding new employees, through activities that foster communication, collaboration, and cooperation. It is also an effective way to teach recent hires about a company’s policies, vision, mission and products. Creating a game is a separate line of study, called Game Design. Game Design focuses on designing a game by creating a plot, the characters, the mechanics, an evolution, game play interaction, etc., and putting those in a confined environment (the game) where the user (player) actively participates, evolves and, hopefully, succeeds.
Gamification, even though it shares similar benefits, is addressing real world challenges with what we learn from games. It is the process of applying game elements and game design techniques to non-game contexts, with the objective of engaging and motivating people by making their real world tasks more fun.
Myth 2: Gamification is not suited to a mature age audience
Following on from the first myth in this list, there is a stigma from people on the outside looking in, that gamification is a child-friendly concept that losses its appeal with age. This simply is not true whatsoever as there are 2.3 billion gamers across the world from varying demographics, along with multiple tiered groups of people that are sympathetic towards games.
Many people look down at the idea of using gamification in their next project due to the perception that game mechanics somehow trivialises serious pursuits, yet gamification today is being deployed into areas such as learning, software coding, leadership training, ethics, marketing, exercise & health, banking, science, research and innovation.
The bottomline is, whether you’re into games or not, everyone has participated in varying forms of game mechanics & dynamics before. We as humans have an innate understanding of reward, status, achievement, and competition. All of which are baked into a well-rounded gamification initiative. As Ian Livingstone points out, “human beings are playful by nature. We enter this world as babies, interacting with everything around us.” Using gaming elements in projects incorporates this kind of interactivity and sense of enjoyment and achievement that people inherently desire – this almost always translates into better results.
Myth 3: Gamification is simply structured competition
This particular myth deters people all the time from using gamification elements in their workplace, marketing or learning, and with good reason too. Not everyone likes competitive environments, their natural response to competition is to opt out. This is highlighted in the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, which highlights 4 key gamer profiles and their approaches to a challenge.
Some people revel in the opportunity to compete against others no matter the context, while some prefer to self-compete, others wish to explore and discover, and others wish to be social. If a gamification campaign is launched to a large audience but only offers a competition framework, there’s a good chance a lot of people will feel burnt by the objective structure.
A good gamification initiative is structured to offer something for all 4 gamer types, as there’s room enough for everyone to participate and play to their strengths. The truth is, gamification need not be about competitions at all. Gamification can also be used to build collaboration among individuals through collective tasks. Under the lens of business gamification, many companies use gamification principles to build a shared understanding of their mission and values.
Myth 4: Gamification alone can fix any engagement issue
No matter how many game elements you throw at a campaign, if the intrinsic value is not realised by the user, then the engagement factor simply won’t happen. Going beyond the experience of gamification, the evidence of progress through analytics can make it compelling for the learner.
It may be easy to dismiss gamification as a fad that doesn’t work for all. Applying that logic, neither does classroom training and e-learning. There are numerous benefits that one can enjoy if gamification principles are applied wisely, suited to the needs of the situation.
Myth 5: Gamification is just a fad
There is a common occurrence in the Marketing world, where people in positions of authority have decided that Gamification is not worth their time as they believe it is simply a fad that’ll be gone tomorrow. This is a very misguided misstep, as the concept of gamification has infiltrated society long-before now, yet we have only just started to see it begin to be become fully formed and recognised as a motivational tool.
This outlook on gamification as a gimmick that won’t be around for very long is actually hurting a lot of businesses as their competitors have adopted gamification elements into their app interfaces, office practices, marketing ploys, fitness tech, and so on, only to see an increase in productivity and engagement from users. In the case of learning both with and without the use of technology, the mechanics of game play have been used for years to help students truly grasp educational concepts. For example, when learning a language, games are often used in the classroom to improve memory recall.
As gaming technology becomes even more integrated into everyday life, it only makes sense that it will continue to be used as a tool to engage and motivate people in other tasks. When it comes to corporate training, many Generation Y employees expect technology to facilitate their work and learning.
According to a Training Industry article, “Being exposed to the most advanced technology and being not only aware of but very dependent on those technologies has caused workers of Gen Y to require advanced technologies in the workplace and in their training.”
Gamification, particularly when it incorporates advanced technology, catches and maintains the (notoriously short) attention span of Gen Y learners and makes learning more engaging for them. Given that Gen Y employees are the future of the workforce it seems unlikely that gamification will die out any time soon.
Myth 6: Gamification will naturally draw in users
There’s a common misconception that if you gamify an experience, people will gravitate towards being a user. The truth is, unless you promote your gamified initiative, participation will be no better than any other initiative out there. Having a fully mapped out marketing campaign is a necessity for a gamified initiative to be made known and embraced by the targeted audience. Really, anything you can do to raise awareness is going to help drive participation.
Ultimately though, you want users to tell others about their positive experience, that is the sign of a successful campaign. We tend to trust the opinions of people we know, so word-of-mouth can be particularly effective at driving participation. In order to get users talking about your gamified experience, there has to be something in it for them. That’s where offering prizes can help, as giving users the chance to win a reward for their engagement is a form of positive association that leads to further user experience.
Regardless of how you encourage people to sign up, the key is to make sure they know about the opportunity in the first place. If no one knows about your program, they are not going to enrol.
Myth 7: There Is No Science Behind Gamification
Most fads, no matter what the context, are based on hype and surface-level enticements that wear thin after awhile and eventually are abandoned. For this very reason Gamification rejects it’s fad status that some wish to bestow upon it, as it was formed around the idea of motivational psychology.
Brian Burke’s book “Gamify: How gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things” breaks down the three core values of successful gamification initiatives in order to motivate users into participation of an activity as being; Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. These motivators avoid extrinsic values such as monetary rewards but rather tap into intrinsic values, such as social and self-esteem building rewards.
These motivators coincide with Psychologist Martin Seligman’s PERMA model. Through dedicating his life to the study of the human mind and how positive and negative psychological health effects a person’s outlook on different topics. After many successful writings and discoveries Martin formulated the PERMA model which was crucial for lasting well being.
Gamification with its human-focused design, taps into each of the 5 points of the PERMA model, in order to satisfy the unspoken desires of the human mind and put users on a desired path in the process. The principles consist of Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments.
When considering gamification as new initiative approach, ensure that sound research-based methods are an integral part of the solution.
One of the first steps to increasing the correct usage of gamification and harnessing its power is to overcome our collective misconceptions about it as an engagement tool. When we have unmet expectations for any strategy or technology, it will always be viewed as a failure. We have to understand what gamification is really about, how to implement it well, and what we can truly expect to achieve in using it, before we can gauge its effectiveness.
If you’d like to learn more about gamification and whether or not it should be part of your next strategy, connect with our team today!