Understanding and Implementing Gamification: Part 1

What Is Gamification and Why Does It Matter?



Colin McMahon


Gaming has been an entertaining hobby for years, but nothing more. Starting really in the 1990s, parents began to worry about the time their children spent playing games. After all, how could sitting at a computer screen for eight hours a day clicking a mouse and typing in commands on a keyboard possibly prepare children for a work environment?


It is fair to say that society’s initial view of gaming might have been limited. Even today, there are many who still dismiss games as nothing more than entertainment: the stuff of playtime and leisure. While it is true that gaming occupies a significant portion of recreational time and activity, it pigeonholes the greater implications. Remember, games do not have to exist, yet they do and they thrive. According to SuperData, the video game industry generated $120 billion in revenue during 2018. Data gathered by Limelight Networks indicates that the average American spends around 6 hours on gaming a week (this number has very likely increased during the COVID-19 pandemic), despite obligations to work and other personal desires.


The point of this data is that people want to play games even though they offer no immediate gain other than entertainment. Why are so many people (the majority of the coming generations) giving this hobby so much time and money? Once we understand why it is that people enjoy games so much, we can transition this love of gaming to other, work-related tasks. Games are, at the end of the day, created to entice consumers into playing them and then keeping them interested enough to master. Many modern-day games even specialize in endless loops, ensuring certain gamers are playing for years without end.


Data shows how smartphones have helped gaming grow significantly since their mass market debut. (Source: Newzoo)


Gamification AKA Human-Focused Design

Let’s say a company needs a lever pulled, so they hire a person to pull the lever. Simple, right? Indeed, it is the core of many traditional design concepts, which can be known as function-based design. In function-focused design, the main purpose is to do the job and do it quickly and efficiently. Need a lever pulled? Hire a person or—in the age of automation—create a robot to do the task.


However, while function-focused design has tremendous benefits in terms of productivity, it does not consider the motivations of the worker. Imagine being hired to just stand in a room and pull a lever. Even without the knowledge that you would soon be replaced by a robot, the vast majority of employees given this duty would quickly lose interest in doing it and seek to find new employment elsewhere.


Gamification’s exact definition is often up for debate (watch this quick video) but, for the purposes of this series, think of gamification as human-focused design. This idea was helmed by global gamification expert Yu-chai Chou and has real merits. Games, at the end of the day, are all about motivating the human-player to have fun. No one will play a game that isn’t engaging (especially today, with hundreds of thousands of games on the market).


Enacting human-focused design will keep people engaged, happier, and more fulfilled. When processes are designed with human motivation in mind, companies won’t just see people doing their jobs—they’ll see people genuinely wanting to do their jobs.


The Motivational Power of Gaming

If all this gamification talk still seems abstract, consider the following:


  • Less than 30% of people feel motivated by non-gamified training. This number jumps by almost 50% when training practices are gamified (Medium.org)
  • Roughly 70% of employees will stay with a company for three years or more when they have received gamified training (Medium.org)
  • Almost all employees (97%) over the age of 45 stated that they believed gamified activities led to a direct improvement of their work quality (Talent Ims)
  • About 85% of employees state that they will spend more time on software that features gamification elements (Talent lms)
  • More than half of all workers (60%) who receive gamified training report an increase in productivity (Forbes)


Companies have been studying gamification principles carefully for several years now and the results are quite promising. If organizations can analyze what exactly it is that makes games fun and incorporate those elements into their workflows, they will reap notable benefits. Many experts believe that gamification is something that will be increasingly common in the 21st century as more and more gamers are born, raised, and enter society.


That said, harnessing the full power of gamification is not easy and cannot be accomplished by merely adding surface level elements. Print service providers and others in our industry must be cautious when looking to gamify their work environments. Throughout the course of this series, we will provide a thorough breakdown of proper gamification strategy, as well as misconceptions and mistakes to avoid.

Much of our work is based on the Octalysis Framework, a gamification tool created to help corporations effectively accomplish gamification strategies. In our next article, we will look at the first core drive of the Octalysis Framework and examine how it can be applied to the print industry.


For more details on gamification, listen to this podcast.