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What is Gamification?

Gamification with Dr Zachary Fitz-Walter

Introduction to Gamification

Dr Zac Fitz-Walter (PhD in Gamification Design) gives us a greater understanding of what Gamification is and where it originated from. Watch now to discover for yourself!
Doctor Zachary Fitz-Walter

Head of Education

Dr Zac Fitz-Walter (PhD in Gamification Design) gives us a greater understanding of what Gamification is and where it originated from. Watch now to discover for yourself!
Doctor Zachary Fitz-Walter

Head of Education


Sport ‘games’ where originally created to get people to take action and keep fit. Board Games like Chess were created to educate soldiers on military strategy. Ancient games like “Knuckles” were used to keep people's minds entertained and engaged during famine. Games and game like elements have been used to Educate, Entertain and Engage for thousands of years. Some classic game elements are; Points, Badges & Leaderboards.

- Points used in sports, Sky Miles, reward cards and video games
- Badges from the Military to golden stars on school report cards
- Leaderboards used in the Olympics, sales teams, and in general life to see who winners or losers are

For more information of these fundamental's check our the 8 Core Human Drives Of Gamification. There are many different definitions for the term gamification. One of the most popular definitions is found in an academic paper from 2011 where gamification was defined as "the addition of game elements to non-game activities". 


Gamification is the addition
of game elements to
non-game activities


What's interesting is that gamification is not a new concept. Actually if you remember Mary Poppins, she sums up gamification quite nicely with the quote "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP! the job's a game."
She was on to something here. She knew that something could be made fun by turning it into a game all the way back in the 1960s. Gamification existed even earlier than this. If you were a Boy Scout you could obtain real badges and ranks back in the early 1900s. However as video games started to take off, we saw educational video games then become popular in the 1970s and 80s. You may remember such games as 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego', ‘Reader Rabbit' and 'Math Blaster’. These games were built for serious purposes, to educate players.
Foursquare is another example. If you checked into a location, you would receive points. Check-in to a new location, you hadn't visited before and you would receive even more points. You could then compare the number of points you had on a leaderboard with friends and you could also receive badges for doing special things like checking-in on a boat or checking in with more than 50 people in one place. If you checked into a place more than anyone else, you became the Foursquare mayor of that place. This felt like a game. And it was a lot of fun to use. Foursquare became a popular example of gamification. What's interesting, though, was that the game elements they used started to appear in many different other applications and websites. This may have contributed to these game elements becoming a popular way to add gamification.
These days we’re seeing more and more serious games in gamification, partly because video games have become mainstream and, as well, smartphones have made it incredibly easy to play games anywhere.

Gamification Physiology  

Gamficaiton is More than Badges, Points, Leaderboards. These are physical elements which reflect our core human needs. heres actually a lot more to these seemingly simple elements than what most people think. According Yu-kai Chou gamification is when we tap into our core human drives. He believes these core drives are key to bringing “fun & engagement” into almost any task; these 8 universal core drives are;


8 Universal Core Drives

  1. Meaning – the desire to feel that our actions have purpose
  2. Accomplishment – The drive to achieve and overcome challenges
  3. Empowerment – The desire to choose one’s own direction and try a variety of solutions to a problem
  4. Ownership – The desire to own things and have possession
  5. Social Influence – The drive to interact with, help, learn from, and compete with others
  6. Scarcity – The drive of wanting things you can’t have
  7. Unpredictability – The drive of wanting to know what will happen next, and...
  8. Avoidance – The drive to avoid pain or negative consequences.
Points, Badges and Leaderboards (among many others I'll list shortly) are only effective because they are helping us reach out Core Drives. This is where gamification gets interesting. It's the physiology of making hard or boring task seem fun. For instance;

- Point systems make us feel like we have meaning, purpose and a sense of progression.
- Badges tap into the need for accomplishment & reward
- Leaderboards appeal to our need for social status and influence.


The more we understand the psychology behind our core drives, the better we will be at Gamifying our Work, Health, Education & Marketing Efforts. Remember Gamification isn't just about being "Fun" but implementing game elements. Some Companies I have worked with have Live Sales Boards with faces on them. They are link to their KPI (key performance indicators) and rewards (commission). 


Gamification Examples



Gamification in Marketing

Gamification has been widely applied in marketing. in 2013 Over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies surveyed said they planned to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and customer retention. With that being said here are the 3 Major types of Gamficaiton Marketing. 


1. Transmedia: 007: GoldenEye

is When you make an entire game out of something you a trying to sell. in 1997 Nintendo did this with "007: GoldenEye". The was a AAA Video Game and was created to bring more attention to the film but actually ended up making more money then the film it's self. Not surprising than 20 years Later the video game industry is now 4x larger than the movie industry. Maybe Movies will start advertising video games? See next point. 

2. Brandification: Tesla + PubG 

In-game advertising. Messages, images or videos promoting a Brand, Product or Service within a video games world. One of the frist to do it well was Counter-Strike. The most popular frist shooter game in history Counter-Strike allowed advertiser to promote posters of movies on walls within the game its self like "Smokin Aces" among many others. The most recent example? Tesla + PubG. PubG is one of the most played video games in the world. Tesla as of July 2020 placed their car's as vehicles you can play within the game. If marketing is "being where the attention is" Tesla may go down in history as having the best Video Game Marketing Campaign of all time. 

3. Advergame: Pepsi Man

Advergame's become popular with Pepsi's "Pepsi Man" and 7 Up's 'Spot' in 1999. in 2019 
popular game like 'Candy Crush' & 'Temple Run' begin to be 're-skinned' with companies logos and themes to promote their products or service. These are done through companies like Gamify or secondary popular website platforms like WIX or Shopify. They have been proven to get higher levels of engagement & redemption than traditional advertisement. 


Gamification in Health


 1. Physical Health: Nike

Nike lunched Nike+Run in 2010 which tracks you'r run time, distance and compares you to yourself and others in area. They have a leaderboard, points and badges. This is classic example on live-feed back and micro-measuring helping runnings to improve as we they become more aware of the smallest increases and encourages us to go further. For more on this check out Top Fitness Apps 2020


2. Mental Health: Headspace 

Headspace uses an app which uses gamification to encourage users to complete and master a level of meditation before moving on to a more advanced section. Each session is about ten minutes long, usually in audio format.


3. Group Workouts: Les Mills

Other organisations like CrossFit have done well with their group connection and leaderboards but Les Mills 'Be Moved' utilises gamification to another level. They do group class's on stationary bikes with a computer screen in-front of them simulating a futuristic Rollercoaster. You need to login in, it tracks your scores, has leaderboard and if you don't show up to class you get a warning. 7/8 of our core drives are shown with Les Mills. 


Gamification in Education


 1. Computer Games: MindCraft - Educational Edition 

Math Blaster & Treasure Mountain where the original's however the best example of teaching 21st Century topics via Game Based Learning is MindCraft Education Edition which Teach's Students how to Code through one of the most popular games in the world; MindCraft. If you'r a teacher you know your students know this game. 


2. Live Quiz's:  Kahoot

Kahoot allows you to create a multi-choice quiz and through a quick website link (which is provided) students can use their phones to select or type in their answer in real-time. The most interactive and simple form of Gamification in the classroom.


3. E-learning Platforms: Archy Learning

Archy Learning is a simple gamified e-learning platform. Teach's can cut and paste youtube links and teachers notes into a learning pathway. Where it gets really fun is the additions; you can add game quiz's, real video games (like the ones mentioned above in Marketing) and Students receive certificates once completed. 


Gamification in Websites


1. Physical & Online Locations: Foursquare

As Previously mentioned Foursquare was the original website and brand which not only started gamification but grew 10x in five years of implementing game elements into customer onboarding. Bringing both real-life and online elements to their brand, store and website. Watch the video above to learn more about Foursquare.

2. Website: DevHub

In August, 2010 Devhub announced an increase in the number of users who completed their online tasks from 10% to 80% after adding gamification elements. Facebook, Twitter and Myspace will implemented game elements into their signup, interactions and continue to do so. The easiest tool to Gamify your site is through the largest website engine's in the world; Wix & Shopify allows users to ad games to encourage engagement & email subscriptions. 

3. Social: Reddit

The most Famous example is Reddit using badges points, leaderboards, personalisation/aviators, coins and many others they took a basic blog website into one of the top 10 most visited sites in the world through gamification. You can buy "coins" and gift them to article writers. You get points what the amount of time you write, interact and how long you have been a member. Reddit is a perfect example of gamification. In life and business we want to identify the actions we want other (or ourselves) to do - and then measure and reward this actions. 

What actions to you want your audience to do? Can you think of anyway of measuring and rewarding them for doing this? The old saying is true "whatever gets measured, improves". This is why loyalty Cards and AirPoints have done so well; it acknowledges and rewards customers for behaviours the company wants them to continue doing. 

Can you think of other companies which have gamified their products or services? 
 What other industry's have done well with gamification? 

This is 1 of 3 Part series. Click on the "Next Article" tab in the bottom right to go to the next video where I talk about other "Top Gamification Examples" with video.
Join me in the following video as we talk about popular examples of gamification >>>

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