Playing games with Gamification


dot429 discusses “gamification” with Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit, author, public speaker, and entrepreneur. Gamification is the use of game thinking mechanics and principles applied to real world situations to solve problems, from business to government and more. 

Can you explain what gamification is? The kinds of game-mechanics used?

Gamification is the use of game thinking, game mechanics, and game principles to solve problems in the real world – from education and business to healthcare and marketing.

For instance, adding leaderboards and achievements to an office collaboration suite is a way to gamify the enterprise and spur productivity and engagement in employees. In marketing, it means adding feedback loops, badge systems and more to your website to make it more engaging and stickier for visitors and potential customers. 

How did gamification come to be used in non-gaming businesses?

The core concepts behind Gamification are not new per se – the military, Hollywood and loyalty programs have been “gamifying” for hundreds or thousands of years.

Since 2010 however, gamification has taken on new momentum driven by the declining efficacy of brand marketing and meteoric rise of new channels and approaches. These include the breakthrough successes of Foursquare and Zynga, Nike+ and Chase in using gamification to drive engagement.

Today, the techniques are being used in a wide range of industries, across the world, and changing the lives of individuals in areas as diverse as health, education, marketing, finance and government. 

How can average people use gamification to further their business endeavors?

The proliferation of free or low-cost tools to create gamified experiences allow small businesses to level the loyalty playing field. Now a cafe, retail store, small manufacturer or startup can access the same (or better) tools of major loyalty marketers.

Whether you’re focusing on employees (apps like Rypple or Due Props) or customers (platforms like Badgeville, BigDoor, BunchBall or Fanzy), you can leverage these tools to create unprecedented engagement. 

What does the Gamification Summit hope to accomplish?

The goal of GSummit is simple: to help share the best practices and leading-edge approaches that have helped organizations transform their industries through gamification.

Given the extraordinary speed and evolution of this industry, it’s critical that marketers, strategists, product developers and entrepreneurs hear directly from the source what worked and what didn’t, learning the lessons that will help them out-execute the competition.

It’s a remarkable event with a strong sense of community on the front lines of engagement – and it’s virtually impossible not to learn something. 

You’ve written two critically acclaimed books with another on the way in 2013 about Gamification and game-based marketing. What got you interested and involved in the topic?

I’ve been at the forefront of engaging diverse communities around the subject of gamification. This is truly a passion play for me – I believe the world can be improved through the techniques of gamification, and as the evidence continues to mount, I find myself ever-more energized about it.

I’ve been in the games industry for nearly 15 years, but my interest in gamification really didn’t begin until I sold my previous startup, Trymedia. After that, I started asking myself “Is entertainment all that games can do?”

I was driven to research the work of fascinating thinkers like Luis Von Ahn and Byron Reeves, and thought we could apply those concepts to a broader dialogue. So, the contemporary gamification industry was “born” around the first GSummit in San Francisco – and we’re only looking forward from here on out. 

Find out more about the GSummit, June 19-21 in San Francisco, on their website here

Read our 429Q with Gabe Zichermann here

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