Gamification - What It Is, What It Does

IDGA Editor

No doubt by now you’ve heard the term "gamification" in conversations about learning and collaboration. But do you know what it is and what it does?

Put simply, gamification is the use of game mechanics in a non-game context to engage users and solve problems. It can be used in virtually any setting and for any behavior, from increasing customer loyalty to getting lazy people off the couch and into the gym.

The idea behind gamification is to leverage people's natural reaction to competition and achievement, not to mention status, self-expression, altruism and closure.

How so? Gamification encourages and rewards user behavior by awarding points, achievement badges or levels; filling a progress bar; providing the user with virtual currency — whatever is going to reinforce the positive behavior.

In a customer service setting, gamification can be used to promote customer loyalty. For example, Starbucks uses gamification to reward customers who check in at multiple locations with special FourSquare badges.

Health clubs are using gamification to encourage their members to work out, awarding badges and points for taking classes, signing up for personal training sessions or even grabbing a smoothie at the snack bar.

In the learning space, gamification can be used to help foster self-directed learning and retention. Software vendor SAP uses games to educate employees on sustainability. Marriott has a Facebook game, My Marriott Hotel, in which "employees" try their hand in managing the hotel’s kitchen operations and earn or lose points depending on customer satisfaction.

Gamification also can be used to improve participation. Deloitte uses gamification in its executive professional development, with a solution that awards points, achievements and missions to draw executives into learning activities. As they interact with content the executives receive points and achievements, which are displayed on the users’ profile.

So who’s in the gamification game? Bunchball, Badgeville, Alemba, Hoopla, Clicks and Links, G2G3, Qmarkets, LevelEleven, Leaderboarded … the list is extensive. And with good reason: Gamification is hot.

If you’re looking for a way to make your corporate learning programs appealing to all employees, gamification just may be the answer.

This article first appeared on the Corporate Learning Network’s site