Gamification aims at increasing the motivation and engagement of humans in various subjects and areas, e.g., healthcare, marketing, and business. This is achieved by adding an extra layer of “motive” on top of an existing system or platform. Motives are usually referred to as game mechanics, since they resemble elements used in games to encourage humans to pursue certain goals, or to adopt desired behaviours.
Gamification is not a new concept to us, and has existed throughout human history; incentivising others to achieve specific goals through certain tasks. However, the digital form of gamification has broadened its abilities to an extent which has opened new horizons in several fields of study.
Gamification as defined by Sebastian Deterding, is the use of game elements in a non-game context. There are several other concepts and fields of studies which may seem to fall under the same category and definition as gamification, and it is important for us to be able to know the distinctive differences. Gamification is usually confused with serious games. Serious games may have similarities with gamification, nonetheless, it is important to note that these two are not the same. Serious games, are games in nature, and mostly aim to deliver educational purposes. Gamification on the other hand, merely uses the elements seen in games, and does not change the nature of the gamified tasks.
Gamification has shown to be an effective tool in changing humans’ behaviour towards healthcare, tourism, or marketing, amongst other fields. For instance, there exist several successful examples of its implementation as a weight loss tool, allowing friends and peers to compete with each other in a healthy manner. It has also helped the tourism industry, by allowing tourists to compete with others in the same geographical location in the number of visited places, which have helped the industry to thrive. The introduction of gamification to educational or business environments has shown significant improvement in performance and achievements. As a result of these success stories, more industries are now inclined to introduce gamification into their systems and platforms, hoping for an increase in the engagement and performance of their users.
Despite many positive stories on the gamification’s success in increasing its users engagement and performance, it is now believed that an ad-hoc design and introduction of gamification may have an adverse impact on its users mental well-being. The adverse impact may be experienced more in business environments where users do not have the choice to opt out of the system. Although gamification may increase its users engagement and performance, however, it is achieved through introducing competition and comparison. In addition, gamification can reveal work information which would have not been provided to other peers in other cases. Work places and businesses carry out performance reviews as a routine, however, the information is kept between the employees and the managers. Gamification naturally requires specific and granular details of employees’ work data, to analyse and make decisions. This availability of granular information and the inherent competitive nature of most gamification designs, would create circumstances that put employees under significant mental pressure. There have been several instances that people have performed acts which they themselves would consider unethical, and they stated that they would not have done so, if gamification was not present.
In conclusion, it is true that gamification can result in a significant increase in the performance and engagement of its users. Nonetheless, its design needs to take multiple contextual factors into consideration prior to its design and implementation. A gamification design that is not fit for the purpose and does not prioritise the requirements of its specific users, may not only hinder the quality of produced work by driving people to work faster to gain the rewards, but also it can decrease staff retention rate as workplace pressure may increase drastically.
Read more on the same subject: