The Ultimate Definition of Gamification (With 6 Real World Examples)

What is the definition of gamification?What is the definition of gamification? Well…

“Gamification is about taking something that is not a game and applying game mechanics to increase user engagement, happiness and loyalty!”

This means that gamification takes elements from game-design and the general principles and theories which drive gameplay and applies them to other contexts.

Secondly, gamification is ordinarily applied to solve problems. These range from issues of engagement in the workplace through to voter apathy. As such, here’s a list of just some of the problems gamification can help solve:

  • Learner engagement in workplace training
  • Sales staff performance
  • Your ability to complete chores and mundane tasks
  • Performance at the gym
  • Organisational productivity
  • Your ability to enter ‘flow’
  • Knowledge retention
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Recruitment issues
  • Customer retention

Gamification will always look slightly different in each context. So, let’s go back to the beginning.

What is Gamification and Where Did it Come From?

In 2002, Nick Pelling coined the term ‘gamification’ and freestyle rappers everywhere rejoiced at the rhyming potential it offered.

The world is now a very different place. We’ve had three new Spider-men, Andy Murray won Wimbledon and we no longer ‘Ask Jeeves’ if there’s the slightest chance that our missing sock has been sucked up into a black hole. But what is the definition of gamification?

It’s a term you’ve probably heard before. Maybe you have a vague understanding of what it is. Maybe you don’t. Perhaps you’ve used it before. Perhaps you haven’t. Maybe the term makes you break out in hives. Maybe it makes you jump for joy.

Why is Everyone so Confused About Gamification?

There’s a clear issue with the term. No two people seem to have the same working definition of gamification. It doesn’t help that there are two different types of gamification (‘Structural’ and ‘Content’).

Then there’s ‘Learning Games’, which are their own beast, but often get dragged into conversations about gamification. Then, of course, there are people who get confused about ‘game elements’ and ‘game mechanics’. Is it about user experience, or is it a form of behavioural design, or is it both? Finally, there are those poor, misguided folk who use the term as a catch-all for anything tangentially connected to the gaming world.

Argh! Why!? This is so deeply, tragically wrong.

There’s clearly an underlying sense of confusion about this word. If you run a quick search, you’ll find a startling lack of clarity on the topic. Bamboozlement abounds. As it happens, we’re about to throw our own beret into the mix.

In fact, by the end of this article, we’ll have reached our very own definition of gamification. Hurrah!

What is Gamification?

Back in the halcyon days of 2014, Gartner sought to redefine ‘gamification’. According to Gartner, gamification is “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals”.

This is an interesting definition. It covers structural gamification (‘game mechanics) and content gamification (‘experience design’) and highlights the importance of engagement and driving motivation. And yet, this definition comes off as both a little too precise and a little too loose. So let’s break it down!

1. Is Gamification Digital or Analog?

Interestingly, Gartner’s definition hones in on ‘digital’ engagement. But whilst digital experiences tend to be easier to gamify, they’re not the only types of experience that can be gamified.

Think about the loyalty card you receive from your local coffee shop. There’s nothing particularly digital about a piece of paper and a stamp. It’s very clear from the real world. Yet, like many loyalty programs, this is clearly an example of gamification in action.

What’s more, we often use gamification in classroom training, without using any digital applications as a crutch. Learners earn Badges throughout the day and climb up our makeshift Leaderboard. We even apply a level structure around our content.

Can you really say that it’s not a gamified experience just because it’s not happening within a digital application? …Can you?

2. Does Gamification Require Goals?

In Gartner’s definition, gamification focuses on enabling people to achieve ‘their’ goals. Hence, this begs the question: can you not gamify an experience to help people achieve your goals?

Could you not create a gamified experience that encourages others to complete a survey you have created? They may not have woken up in the morning with a burning desire to complete a questionnaire, but the use of rewards could be enough to motivate them into action.

Whilst we appreciate the importance of aligning individual and organisational goals, we don’t see how this impacts on the definition of gamification.

Perhaps Gartner is trying to position gamification as a goal alignment tool.

In other words, you can use gamification to get people on board with your own goals. This means it stops being about helping people realise their own potential. They’re simply doing what you need them to.

Still, even if this is true, it doesn’t feel accurate to classify a reconfigured goal as ‘their’ goal. The motivation has changed, but the author of the goal remains the same.

3. Gameception: Can You Gamify a Game?

Gamification can’t exist on its own. It needs to be applied to something else. Yet in capturing this fact, Gartner’s definition seems to come up a little short.

Hence, there’s no mention of where the game mechanics (or experience design) need to be applied, beyond the ‘digital’ qualifier. Does that mean that we could describe the gaming mechanics used within video games as an example of gamification? This seems nonsensical on the face of it, but Gartner’s definition doesn’t necessarily rule it out.

How Do We Define Gamification?Gamification is defined as the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming environments to make difficult tasks more engaging

As nit-picky as this all may sound, the consensus is an important thing. If we’re all working from the same base definition, then we’re able to have better conversations and drive deeper understanding.

Hence, here at Growth Engineering, we define gamification as “the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming environments to make difficult tasks more palatable”.

What we mean by this definition is that gaming mechanics – Experience Points, Levels, Leaderboard, Rewards – help you to make boring tasks more fun. Instead of dragging your heels and putting off whatever it is you need to do, gamification engages you! You’ll jump in, get it done and win that high score!

Gamification leverages our desires for status, achievement, competition and to be part of an inclusive social community to increase engagement.

Many gamification models reward the user for completing the desired task and a Leaderboard is then utilised so they strive for further improvement. These elements result in a gamification platform with high levels of engagement.

Gamification Examples

Gamification has a long and rich history. And ever since the term ‘gamification’ was born in 2002, we have only seen it become more and more popular. As a result, it’s now a useful tool in various industries and settings.

It’s much easier to understand gamification if you see examples of it in action. As such, we are next going to explore some of our favourite examples of gamification in different settings. These gamification examples include:

  • Gamification in hobbies and activities
  • Combining gamification and immersive technology
  • Gamification in customer service
  • Gamified mobile apps
  • Gamification in education
  • And gamified corporate training

Let’s explore these examples more in-depth below!

1. Gamification Is Out of This World, Scouts Honour

A primitive example of gamification would be rewarding Scouts with a badge for a task that they wouldn’t normally partake in. For instance, Scouts may earn badges for fishing or orienteering.

Competition amongst the Scouts reinforces a desire to keep getting more badges. These badges engage the Scout through the desires mentioned earlier: status, achievement, competition and being part of an inclusive social community.

The fact that 10 out of the 12 people to have walked on the moon were Scouts means something must be working!

2. Gamification, I Choose You!

Pokémon GO has proven to be one of the most successful mobile games of all time. While it no longer is the global phenomenon it was in 2016, it continues to be popular today. What’s the secret sauce you ask? Through gamification, the app has managed to captivate and engage users worldwide

Acting as a futuristic Scout badge, ‘Pokémon Go!’ rewarded its users with high-level Pokémon for walking great distances. This is an example of applying game mechanics to fitness, which is a market that is quickly becoming part of our Fitbit-wearing lives.

Had you asked those young people (and those young at heart) to walk those distances without any incentive then you’d probably find yourself out of luck. This is the power of gamification!

In the next case studies, you will learn more about how gamification is used for enterprise training programs and online courses. Keep reading! 

3. Gamification in Customer Service, FreshDesk

FreshDesk is one example of gamification in business. As a helpdesk software platform, its value comes from improving customer satisfaction for its clients. One of the key drivers was the productivity and performance of customer service agents. As such, FreshDesk employed gamification techniques to increase their enthusiasm and engagement on the job.

One way of doing this was to transform the monotony of ordinary everyday tasks into exciting quests. Call centre agents were awarded with badges for completing performance goals within these quests. For example, those who were able to deliver speedy responses to customers received a “Fast Resolution Badge”. A point system was used where the achievement of multiple levels or tasks earned participants awards or trophies. 

Moreover, the use of a Leaderboard allowed managers to track performance. This gave increased visibility for top performers across the whole team. In turn, this encouraged healthy competition among the players, driving up engagement levels. Challenges were also set up in a multi-player / multi-team environment, allowing agents to socialize and learn from each other

Hence, what resulted was a positive transformation in employee attitudes where employees became better engaged with their work. Managers saw their customer service teams become more efficient and effective. Through gamification, FreshDesk successfully saw an increase in staff productivity, ultimately leading to enhanced customer satisfaction. 

4. Gamification in Apps, Nike+

When Nike developed the Nike Run Club App (now Nike+), the purpose of the app was to motivate people to be consistent with their training. 

Alongside features such as GPS tracking, guided workouts and custom coaching plans, the app incorporated elements of gamification to really boost user engagement. 

Nike created in-app challenges, which allowed users to compete with their friends or other fellow app users. Urgency was also used to drive user action, with each challenge accessible for a limited time.

With each completed run, users unlocked achievements and prizes which they could broadcast to their friends. Small wins were celebrated through personalized messages. Similarly, a Leaderboard encouraged users to track their performance and monitor how far ahead of other runners they were. Social learning was also incorporated, making it possible for users to share photos, stickers and progress with friends.

As a result, by incorporating gamification elements such as time-bound challenges, progress levels, and awards, Nike+ succeeded in getting people to become more consistent in fitness. Retention was also achieved by the boosts users received with each completion and the notifications that brought friends back into the app. 

As a result, sales skyrocketed for Nike shoes. This helped Nike to gain control of a significant portion of the running shoe market ever since the launch of Nike+.

5. Gamification in Education, Google

When Google added Google Forms to its Google Drive suite, the program offered gamification tools for different kinds of users. In the case of education, Google invited teachers to gamify their lessons to increase engagement among students. For example, Google empowered teachers to create and award badges every time a student produced great work, or displayed exemplary behaviour. 

Recipients can then show off the badges on social media, or even on recruitment portals to support their job applications. Google Sheets also facilitates the creation of Leaderboards for learners. 

Accordingly, this empowered students to track their individual progress, and also see the top performers in each class. Through these gamification elements, instructors are able to deliver a curriculum, where students are highly motivated and engaged to learn. 

Knowing the power of gamification, Google also employed similar techniques for its own staff. Like many companies, Google wanted to have its employees submit travel expense information consistently and on time. 

As such, they transformed their travel expense system into an interactive platform, which gamified the way employees managed and reported their expenses. As a result, they achieved 100% compliance within 6 months of launch. 

6. Gamification for Corporate Training, HP

HP is an example of GamificationHP, the world’s biggest personal computer vendor and one of the world’s largest tech brands, wanted an effective way to maximize learning and knowledge recall for their sales staff. 

In partnership with Growth Engineering, a mobile app called The HP Uni App was launched. The purpose of the app was to train sales teams on cybersecurity topics. Working together, we aimed to maximize learner engagement through gamification. 

At the heart of the learning campaign was the HP Security Cup. The mechanics invited users to partake in knowledge battles, where they could earn points upon winning rounds. Successful players could then rise up the leader board in an attempt to win the HP Security Cup. 

Learners were also able to challenge each other in peer-to-peer quiz battles which drove further excitement and participation. As a result, employee engagement skyrocketed to never before seen levels, much to the delight of HP’s management team. Using Growth Engineering’s mobile app framework, Growth Engineering Learning App, HP was able to achieve outstanding learning outcomes for its L&D initiatives. 

Want to learn more about gamification? Luckily for you, we’ve written just the thing! 

Our Guide To Gamification: What it is and Why it Works is an insightful research note that will tell you everything you need to know. Grab your copy here!

Growth Engineering and Gamification

And what about us at Growth Engineering? Why do we care so much about the definition? And what gives us the right to define the term?

Well, we’re the #1 provider of gamified learning technology, in fact, we’re the team who pioneered its use within L&D. When it comes to gamification techniques, we know what we’re talking about.

Gamification and Mobile Learning

Our learning platforms are gamification solutions through and through! Everything we do is meticulously designed to engage learners, from your very first login to your one-thousandth, learners are motivated and engaged by game-like features on Growth Engineering LMS, Growth Engineering Learning App and Growth Engineering Authoring Tool.

Want to find out more about how we use gamification to engage learners? Why not start with one of these blogs:

Want to learn more about how gamification can solve your organisation’s L&D challenges? Our ‘Ultimate Guidebook to Gamification in Online Learning‘ is your one-stop-shop for all things gamification!

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