What is Gamification?

According to Wikipedia, Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

But let’s take a closer look at what this means in the non-gaming world, and how gaming translates to a business model.

You may be surprised to learn that the concept of applying gamification outside of traditional gaming has been around for over a century! “Making work fun”, as a way to motivate employees and keep their spirits up is certainly not a new idea. What is new, however, is the application of modern gaming mechanics to today's business models. We can all relate to some of the motivational quotes from influencers like Steve Jobs, Co-Founder at Apple, who famously said: “ Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Early precursors to today’s gamification landscape are everywhere, and to quote Zac Fitz-Walter: “…Before the term existed many designers and researchers were already exploring the role of play and fun in computer applications. Malone in the early 80s created heuristics for designing enjoyable user interfaces and Draper in the late 90s looked at analyzing fun as a candidate software requirement.”

Some notable examples of 1st Generation gamification applications/programs:

  • Daily tasks — Chore Wars (2007): Features “Dungeons & Dragons” style storytelling.
  • Education — Quest to Learn (2009): Applying gamification to education to engage students at an early age.
  • Personal Finance- Mint (2006, acquired by Intuit 2009): A free, web-based personal financial management service for Canada and the U.S.
  • And many more, as this partial timeline depiction illustrates: