Gamification: How game mechanics influence us in daily life

When I was a kid, the tasks I did in school were rewarded with colorful little stickers. Whenever I did an assignment right, I received a sticker (or a little card with a happy animal on it). I remember the teacher having huge amounts of them tucked in a drawer. As a six year old I suppose receiving stickers, stars and cards made me feel accomplished.

Erik de Kuijper
WCG GmbH & Co.KG

Stickers changed into unlocking achievements as I grew older and started to get more and more involved with videogames. They kept me playing until I grew tired of a game and started to look for something else to fuel that feeling of accomplishment.

Even though you might not be one of “those” people that like to play games, the principle of gamification is something you automatically are part of in everyday life. Let’s say for example you have a card for a customer reward program in your wallet – you receive points for every item you purchase. These points add up and give you nice discounts or freebies. Now that you are in the system, this huge store even sends you a birthday card. This is nice until your wallet holds 15 different cards from stores you frequently visit. For you it is nice because of a little discount, but for the stores you are a valuable returning customer that needs to be rewarded (did you know there is an 80/20 rule that states that 80% of all sales are being done by only 20% of customers?). As predicted by a 2011 study, by now over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies should have at least one gamified application for the purposes of marketing and customer binding

Thinking back I guess it’s in our nature to feel better when we get rewarded for little meaningless tasks. I was meaning to buy a new shirt anyway, but now I have a shirt, with 5% discount AND customer points. I needed to fill up my car, but now I have fuel AND payback points. Does having a company’s card in our wallet actually make us more likely to be the faithful returning customers they love?

I personally don’t feel easily connected with brands, but it might work for others. There is a good reason most larger stores have a program like this nowadays. Gamification of the consumer simply works, as long as there is a reward.

So if we follow the data in marketing, gamification is worth looking into. Using game-like thinking and mechanics as marketing tools seems promising enough, though you don’t have to go out shopping to play the game. Triggers of subconscious needs for collecting stickers and badges are very much present on the web. And more often do we see websites offering badges or points for doing simple tasks like signing up, completing a profile or commenting on various topics. The success of these sites often relies on the engagement and content generation of its users, so it makes perfect sense to push this a little bit forward by handing out a few points here and there. It doesn’t even matter that the points don’t add any other value than a digital status visible to other users.

So what about gamification of the workplace? A feeling of accomplishment comes with a higher salary and promotion, but frankly that doesn’t happen often enough to really fuel a short-term need for accomplishment. If you’re not working for a company like Google the chances are low that are you’ll find video game consoles and pool tables at the office. For companies without a highly competitive working environment the creation of artificial sense of achievement could just be the thing to keep the employees happy. Actually, with intranets and custom office applications game mechanics are already being implemented to track employee performance, boost morale, motivate employees and increase sales.

I guess it would be hard not to be part of the game these days. Collecting points, stickers and badges for all these websites and companies, this is exactly the world my teacher was preparing me for.

Game on.


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