“Gamification” was a hot topic last year, but you don’t hear much about it these days. This is ironic because it’s now that gamification seems to be maturing as a way to drive action and make boring tasks entertaining.
For example, Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council are designing a unique social game that encourages responsible energy consumption. Users will compare their energy use with their friends, share tips and compete in consumption reduction competitions. The app automatically imports data from the user’s utility company in order to reduce hassle and focus on the fun and competitive aspects of the program.
Productive Games Pop Up Everywhere
The U.K. Department for Work and Pensions implemented a game intended to solicit ideas from employees two years ago. The game has been a big success and the department expects to save about $30 million by 2014.
And Microsoft recently released Ribbon Hero 2: Clippy’s Second Chance in order to teach people how to use the company’s Office software.
These are but a few examples of how game design is being used to entice people to do generally unattractive tasks by making them fun and challenging.
Gartner projects that more than 70 percent of the world’s 2,000 largest companies will have at least one gamified application by 2015.
Gaming’s Influence is Broader Than You Think
You can also see the subtler, broader influence that gamification has had on application design.
Facebook’s new “Read”, “Watch” and “Listen” buttons will encourage users to share their media consumption habits by putting structure to conversations that are already common on the site.
An increasing number of utilitarian applications are including points and other game-like elements in order to gently encourage people to use them more consistently.
This simplified approach is a good example of where gamification is heading. People need not think of the application as a game. In fact, it is sometimes better that they don’t.
A New Discipline Emerges
Gaming is becoming a more mainstream discipline in the same way that digital has.
Currently, designers, writers, strategists and all sorts of people whose primary job is not software architecture still study digital in order to understand how to handle the medium. Gaming too will become required reading and an expected competency for a variety of creative professionals.
Designers should look at every interaction a user has with an application as an opportunity to use gaming psychology to drive action and create more deeply engaging experiences for users.
Health, diet, work, chores, parenting, saving money, taking care of pets, reading … all of these things have been turned into games. And in the process, people have had fun while being productive.
If you can find a game that will help you learn game design, and you probably can, I recommend getting it.
Greg Steen, 10.25.2011