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Gaming, from tradition to innovation: the mechanism of gamification

Social innovation

01/02/2021

La gamification come strumento al servizio di persone e aziende

Gamification in daily life

Several centuries ago, the German writer and educator Jean Paul Friedrich Richter was convinced that “games are a serious thing. Very serious”. A quick look around us proves the truth of this affirmation: the mechanisms of games are part of our daily life, especially if we consider social media platforms. A “like” on a Facebook post gratifies us with positive feedback, a user who views our LinkedIn profile confirms our identity and our role. That which the psychologist Albert Bandura defined in the 1970’s as a “reward” in a wider psychological model has evolved digitally into gamification.

gaming stimulates certain human primal instincts such as social status, the search for rewards and competition
 

The term “gamification” comes from the word “game” and it is the application of game elements and game design to different contexts. The objective is to use the dynamics of the game to engage with people and motivate them to achieve different objectives. Marketing, productivity, learning: the application possibilities are endless. For example, big businesses can use gamification to improve the rapport between employees and the business (workplace gamification) while brands can use it to reinforce customer loyalty (marketing gamification).

Engaging consumers through gamification

Games are one of the most frequently used mechanisms to engage with people and big businesses make ample use of them to tempt their customers. Stimulated and engaged customers are more inclined to focus on the brand message and engage in specific behaviour.

There is a reason why the history of marketing is full of examples of gamification. Already back in 1987, the well-known fast food chain McDonald’s promoted a very successful offline gamification tactic: customers received Monopoly property cards when they bought specific items. The objective was to collect all the cards of the same colour to win a prize. This simple game led to an increase in McDonald’s sales through the direct engagement with its customers.
Bonobos, the online menswear store, created a sort of digital scavenger hunt. In 2011, it challenged its users to look for hidden models on websites of two brand partners. Each day of the competition, the first 50 users to find the images received a Bonobos voucher and free shipping. Bonobos’ collaboration with other brands gained it greater visibility and a larger target base.

Gamification responds to the need and desire to give customers an original experience

A more recent example is that of the famous sportswear brand Nike. In 2019, Nike extended the treasure hunt formula offline with the SNKRS app, developed to launch limited editions of its sneakers. On the app’s second anniversary, a message invited users to look for the products in the app to find virtual scratch-and-win tokens. Some of them gave users the possibility to go on to the second round of the game, identifying actual locations in Paris, Berlin and London where they could buy precious sneakers in limited editions.

Game based learning and serious games

Gamification is not limited to marketing: with the current physical distancing requirements, digitalisation is also playing a leading role in the education field. Digitalisation can be used for teaching and learning thanks to interactive storytelling. MUIR, the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, has fostered the use of gamification in schools for some time with the launching of projects like the 2021 Digital School Competition which promotes the development of innovative blended digital teaching models such as serious games and game-based learning. There is a difference between the two: game-based learning is based on games that can sometimes start as pure entertainment tools but are subsequently used, with or without modification, as teaching tools.

The simple and effective principle underlying gamification is that when we have fun, we get better results. 

The serious games are based on game mechanisms but are applied to non-gaming contexts. This may be the case when the user engages in an educational simulation and learning is encouraged by interaction in specific scenarios. For example, there are video games that tackle issues such as bullying, war victims or even Covid. The Stay at Home serious game on Covid-19 was invented by the Swedish Malmö University to teach younger users useful prevention measures to cope with the public health emergency.

The contemporaneity of gamification

Although this term was coined more than ten years ago, it is still incredibly relevant, especially with the lockdown and the whole issue of social distancing. The pandemic has emphasised our need for interaction and involvement in every social sector and gamification is a feasible way to respond to this need
The education sector is proof of this: UNESCO data show that more than one and a half billion students around the world (one fifth of the world’s population) have been obliged to stay at home to limit the diffusion of the virus. It is not hard to imagine, and many cases have driven this home, that gamification can have a positive impact in facilitating distance learning and making it more enjoyable. The business world has also been drastically affected by the pandemic and businesses have integrated working from home with  systems that make tasks more attractive with the award of points and rewards when objectives are met.

Gamification facilitates the achievement of work and personal objectives

The gamification sector evolves in line with developments in technology and related devices. It is an interesting and valuable way to help bridge the logistical and interpersonal gaps caused by the public health emergency as well as being useful to achieve work and personal objectives.