Is Gamification any good?

I hate broccoli. I hated it when I was a kid; I will hate it till the day I die.

The story goes back about 17 years ago. My mother was trying to get me and my kid brother to eat broccoli.

We DID NOT want to eat any broccoli!

No matter what she tried – broccoli parantha (Indian stuffed bread), broccoli burgers, broccoli sandwiches – nothing, absolutely nothing – absolutely nothing with broccoli in it – would get past our gullet.

I think she was just at the cusp on completely giving up on her dream of feeding us oodles of broccoli when one fine day, I think it was happenstance, when while we were eating our lunch she kept two plates – moderately filled – of boiled broccoli and said the magic words – “let’s see who can finish the broccoli first”, and lo! the taste of broccoli (or rather the lack of it) did not matter anymore, all that mattered was that I crushed my (kid) brother at eating broccoli! I was the master broccoli eater!

What my mother had knowingly or unknowingly done, was use a very basic tenet of gamification and turned an otherwise undesirable activity of – eating broccoli – into an enjoyable task.

Having said that, a lot of times when I use the word gamification in a conversation, especially in work environment, many assume, what I am talking about, is converting the task at hand into a game – and that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Gamification is not about turning work into a game, it is – according to me – it is in fact a tool that can help you break the monotony of work in office, train your employees in various skill sets and engage customers through well designed loyalty programs. Gamification can help you break down tasks, target specific goals and develop certain habits. Gamification is a great tool to aid you in changing even cultural nuances at workplace or even at home.

The basic tenets of gamification are defined as the PBLs – Points, Badges and Levels. I will not go into them in detail as I want to talk more about the psychology aspect of game design and not the mechanics (will try to cove the same in another article):

  • Points: reward specific actions that you want you audience to take – eating healthy, posting a review, purchase, etc
  • Achievement Badges: these are given on reaching a milestone or completing a unique task – someone who has referred 5 of his friends to your restaurant/outlet gets a ‘master referrer badge’
  • Mastery Levels: these are given players to show their current prowess in the game. how much better or worse they are than their friends/peers from their social circle in the ‘game world’.
  • Apart from these there are, what I call, sub-mechanics in the game – experience points, progress bars, leader-boards, etc which enrich the game experience for the participants

A good example is the gamified review mechanism for a very commonly used site called Tripadvisor. A site used world-over by people for posting travel reviews about hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations et all.

Tripadvisor has a gamification based reviewer program call the ‘TripCollective’. Here a screenshot of my Tripcollective dashboard:


Its quite easy to pick out obvious game design elements from the screenshot. The PBLs are all present, total points, a progress bar, etc.

While Tripadvisor’s use of gamification is not as extensive as many other brands it is simple and effective. That to me is the right model.

Gamification is not something that will completely alter your user experience it will ‘enhance’ the current experience. The basics have to be right, one simply has to google ‘failed gamification models’ to come across a ton of them. Models that failed due to complex game mechanics, wrong targeting or just due to being too hard.

Being a foodie, I cannot resist using a food analogy here – gamification is like cinnamon, it will enhance the taste in some cases but might not go well with everything and too much of it is definitely not recommended.

On second thought I might write an article on ‘what to avoid when gamifying’ to further explore the other side!

The writer of this article, Dnyanesh Bodhe, is a blogger, author, speaker and a facilitator in the areas of Innovation, Creativity and Change. He works on several cutting edge management concepts like behavioral economics, gamification, scenario planning, net promoter score, innovation jamming, etc. 


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