Gamification may be a new term, but the idea of using game-thinking and game
mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences isn’t exactly new. The military
has been using games and simulations for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and
the U.S. military has been a pioneer in the use of video games across branches. Three
hundred years ago, Scottish philosopher David Hume laid the groundwork for understanding
player motivation with his views on the primacy of the irrational self. Since
the 1960s, authors have been writing books that explore the “gamey” side of life and
psychology, while since at least the 1980s, Hollywood has been hot on the trail of
gamification with movies like War Games.
And behind all this is our general love affair with games themselves. Play and games
are enshrined in our cultural record, emerging with civilizations, always intertwined.
We are also now coming to understand that we are hardwired to play, with researchers
increasingly discovering the complex relationships between our brains, neural
systems, and game play (hint: play and games help you get smarter, faster). There’s
even an emerging scientific idea that games can help you live longer by staving off
dementia and improving general health.
Therefore, seeing business and product designers embrace the concept of gamification
should come as no surprise. As our society becomes more and more gameobsessed,
much of the conventional wisdom about how to design products and
market to consumers is no longer absolute. To further engage our audiences, we need
to consider reward structures, positive reinforcement, and subtle feedback loops
alongside mechanics like points, badges, levels, challenges, and leaderboards.