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Gamification.  If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will be hearing more and more about it in the next few years.  So what is gamification?

Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to non-game activities. 

The purpose of gamification is to encourage users to move toward a goal or to increase engagement with a product or service.  The term “gamification” is most typically applied to online and mobile applications.  Often (but not always) these gaming elements are used in social applications that put users in friendly competition with each other or provide incentives for users to share content with others.

Companies are exploring ways that gamification can be applied to online learning.  An example of this might be a leaderboard that shows which departments in an organization have the highest number of course completions.  Or perhaps a course could “reward” participants with virtual badges each time they successfully complete an activity in the course.

Today there are already significant websites and mobile phone apps that implement Gamification in their interface.  

One example is Duolingo.  Duolingo is a successful online and mobile application for learning a new language.  Duolingo uses a gaming type interface and reward elements to encourage and challenge users to learn a new language.  You earn points for completing a lesson and the application keeps track of your progress.  In addition you can share your progress with friends and compete for higher scores. 

In case you think gamification is not for serious business activities, even organizations like IBM are now integrating gamification elements into enterprise-wide social applications.  Gamification is being applied to customer engagement, employee performance, sales activity, data collection, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability and much more.

You may think that the learners in your organization are too old for games or that games aren’t appropriate for healthcare applications and learning.  Here are a few facts about gaming: 

  • 58% of Americans play video games.  And that number is increasing with the widespread use of mobile phone apps.
  • The average gamer is 30+ years old.
  • Women represent 45% of gamers.
  • Attention spans are getting shorter at all ages.  Learners need motivation, engagement and encouragement.

I know a 70 year old who has never played a video game that recently told me about how they love getting rewards on a mobile app they use.

In their book For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business, Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter, list gaming elements that appear in non-gaming environments.  These elements are:

  • Achievements (defined objectives)
  • Avatars (visual representations of a player’s character)
  • Badges (visual representations of achievements)
  • Boss Fights (especially hard challenges at the culmination of a level)
  • Collections (sets of items or badges to accumulate)
  • Combat (a defined battle, typically short-lived)
  • Content unlocking (aspects available only when players reach certain objectives)
  • Gifting (opportunities to share resources with others)
  • Leaderboards (visual displays of player progression and achievement
  • Levels (defined steps in player progression)
  • Points (numerical representations of game progression)
  • Quests (predefined challenges with objectives and rewards)
  • Social Graphs (representations of players’ social network within a game)
  • Teams (defined groups of players working together for a common goal)
  • Virtual goods (game assets with perceived or real-money value)

In the next few years, you will be using applications that integrate these elements into the workflow.

Gamification is about encouragement.  When implemented properly, it becomes a seamless part of the experience.  It will take some time, but organizations will learn how to properly design gamification elements into applications that enhance the learning experience.  HCCS is already looking at how gamification can enhance compliance education.