Play, Games and Gamification

Gamification is a hot topic in many businesses and organizations.

Everyone is talking about gamification, however there is sometimes confusion around the difference between play, games and gamification.

Games are a subcategory of Play. Games are different from play or leisure since it must conform to an explicit or implicit set of rules that introduce an element of extrinsic motivation. Games stimulate different emotions in participants that are not natural and naïve. They are aligned with the types of interactions the system of rules allow and based on the values of the company or organization in which they are created.

The most commonly used definition of gamification is the use of game designed elements and mechanics in non-gaming situations to encourage user (e.g. customers or employees) motivation and engagement. Therefore gamification is different from games since it is applied to non-game contexts.

Like in games, gamification development involves the application of multiple disciplines, including social and behavioral principles. But ultimately, all type of games should be fun and challenging. There are three main principles for creating gamification experiences: mechanics (that specifies the rules, goals, settings, rewards and interactions of the game); the, dynamics (that transmits player behaviors e.g., bluffing), and emotions (i.e., how players feel toward the gamified experience e.g., excitement or disappointment).

User engagement can be driven either through extrinsic motivation (rewards in the form of money or verbal feedback e.g., praise) or intrinsic reinforcements or emotions (being internally motivated to act because the task is inherently interesting or enjoyable). Although external factors can certainly motivate behaviors, intrinsic motivation is a very powerful behavior change element. Both promote performance gains, but external rewards such as money or status should not consistently weaken people's intrinsic motivation.

Through this mix of rewards and emotions, gamification can change employees and customers’ behaviors by triggering the human natural need for gaming. This way companies and organizations can achieve their goals, such as motivate consumers to buy a product or change employee behaviors in an expected or routine form.

No matter the type of gamification initiatives, project managers should not forget that their main goal is to turn traditional processes and activities into fun, game-like experiences.

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