Understanding and Implementing Gamification: Part 3

Revealing and Ratifying the Misconceptions Surrounding Gamification



Colin McMahon


Get Caught Up

Part 1: What Is Gamification and Why Does It Matter?

Part 2: Epic Meaning and Calling People to Action


Whether you are an office equipment dealer, production level printer, or some other type of print service provider, gamification has the power to impact your business on multiple levels every day. Gamification— or the use of game design mechanics outside the gaming space—is seeing increasing evidence that it is one of the more powerful business development strategies in the 21st century. As part of our commitment to provide useful service and tips to our clients, Keypoint Intelligence presents this ongoing series on gamification, diving into some of its numerous aspects in the hopes of turning this abstract concept into actionable strategy.


Since it entered the main business consciousness roughly a decade ago, gamification as a term has sadly suffered the fate of so many other new concepts: It became a buzzword. People would drop “gamification” at the first chance they could to make their concept sound new and innovative, even if what they were discussing barely involved game design mechanics at all or only used them on a superficial level. In part three of our gamification series, we’re going to be looking at how gamification can be misused and shortcuts to avoid if you consider implementing it within your organization.


Points, Badges, and Leaderboards—Oh My!

Many conversations on gamification begin with discussing points, badges, and leaderboards. Points and badges provide a way for the player to track progress and receive positive feedback when they have an accomplishment, and leaderboards add a social aspect—a way for the player to see how they rank up against the competition. All three are considered game elements that, if used well, can add to an employee’s motivation and increase their work production…If used well.


Many successful games have these three ingredients. This is part of why they are so often held up. Smash successes in the mobile space like Candy Crush, for instance, provide all three in colorful quantities. Badges have been worked into console gaming as a way to motivate players to perform tasks they would have otherwise passed on, and nearly every digital social platform possesses a leaderboard of some kind. Yes, these three elements are present in a lot of successes. They are also present in too many failures to count.


As was discussed in our podcast in gamification, no one really plays a game for the points, badges, and leaderboards. If I told you to clean all the bathrooms in your corporate office, you probably would not want to do it. If I told you that you would receive a badge for doing so well…you likely still would not want to do it. What is the point of the badge? Or points in this regard? What do they actually mean? In Mario, you do not just get points for completing a level; you also get to advance to the next stage.


Points, badges, and leaderboards can help provide good feedback to players using the experience, but they must be well implemented. If employees got badges for completing training programs and every five badges equaled some form of bonus, this would be much more effective than just the standard “do a task, get a badge” mentality.


When implementing feedback mechanics, you want to make sure it always feels rewarding. This means that you cannot get a badge just for showing up. Okay, maybe showing up the first time gives the player some points, and then maybe they get a badge for showing up every tenth time following this occurrence (points on the first day, the tenth day, the twentieth day, etc.). You also want to make sure that each point/badge is tailored to the task you want your employees to master. There is no real reason to reward an employee for using Excel when you are trying to get them to spend more time on PowerPoint.


Leaderboards must also be well thought-out. The last thing you want is to foster unhealthy competition between employees. Anything that may create negativity in the workplace is, by nature, not a production enhancer.



Does More Play Equal Less Work?

Certain employers fear gamification like they do COVID-19. They believe it is just an excuse, perhaps created by younger employees in the Millennial and Gen Z generations, to play more during work hours. This is a myth. The only truth to it is that Millennials and Gen Z will likely respond better to gamified experiences, in part because many grew up playing video games and have intrinsic knowledge of how they work. However, numerous studies have consistently shown that all age groups benefit from successful gamification implementation.


The only time when gamification can, in theory, detract from work is when it is used poorly. If companies hold meetings every day, but say they have gamified these meetings by rewarding attendees with points, then they really are not using gamification. They are just prioritizing meeting culture over work culture, and workers will (as a result) have less time to do their actual jobs if they are too bogged down in superfluous meetings.


Likewise, if every game element is separate from work elements, that can also create a slowdown. Successful gamification weaves gameplay elements into a normal workday, it does not make the user stop performing their job to play a game and then return to work.


Playing online games like Heroes of the Storm and Broken Picturephone can be good team-building exercises, but neither of these reflect gamification. When it used properly, playing the game should not feel separate from doing the job.


The End Goal Must Always Involve Fun

So how can you know you are using gamification properly? The answer is simple. People do not play games because they are educational (although many are strong learning tools). They do not play games to rack up points and badges, earning a top spot on the leaderboard. They play games because they are fun. If a game is not fun, it does not get played…at least not for long.


So, at every step of the way, fun must be a priority when implementing gamification. If it is fun to get points and badges, your employees will work toward it. Game design is not easy and it cannot be accomplished within 15 minutes. Employers that are serious about implementing strong gamification practices should understand it is an investment and one that should be taken with player feedback at every step of the process. If you’re not sure that an idea is fun, test it out. Play-testing is common in game development. Your players will tell you.


Source: ATD


Gamification is here to stay. It is a design strategy that, if used well, dramatically increases worker happiness and productivity. But it is not magic. Putting gamification on some process does not immediately make it better, especially if that implementation has been sloppy and superficial. All it does is create the idea that gamification is nothing more than a buzzword, something people say to sound innovative without putting in the work. 


In our next piece on gamification, we will discuss whether print can be gamified, and what that will look like.