Electronic games are not always synonymous with entertainment. In many sectors, they are a working tool. The practice has already become a concept which got an ugly name derived from the English word for games: “gamification”. The term refers to the process of using mechanical games, such as scoring and difficulty levels, in environments that are not necessarily playful. For the economist and entrepreneur with a focus on innovation and disruptive technologies, Arie Halpern, “the games are a versatile tool, adaptable to different purposes and businesses”. In fact, they are both used as stimulants in distance learning applications, such as Duolingo, as well as in gyms to stimulate the training and increase the athletes ‘ performance.
The main feature of gamification is to make the experience of the user, be it a student, an employee or an athlete, more enjoyable. The strategy seems to work. According to a research carried out by Gartner, a North American consulting company, in 2014, more than 70% of the global organizations had, at least, an application that used the gamification strategy. In a last year’s news article of the magazine Forbes, Gartner showed that it continued to invest in this concept. As stated by the company, in 2020, algorithms will be able to change the behavior of more than a billion users thanks to the gamification strategy, and over 40% of workers in the United States will reduce their health costs owing to devices and fitness wearables that also work with this concept. The strategy can even be used in personal organization programs such as the HabitRP that uses levels, experience, and challenges so that the users feel stimulated to perform their daily tasks.
Gartner’s study confirms the efficiency of gamification to deeply engage users in their activities, and also to change behaviors. Therefore, its deployment must be done carefully, without exaggeration. For Brian Burke, Vice President of the research company, the three key concepts to use gamification correctly are motivation, time and meaning. For Arie Halpern, the strategy’s success is due in large part to the fact that it refers people to a playful universe. “By creating a pleasurable activity, the application can make people feel more motivated to accomplish their tasks. The activity ceases to be an obligation and becomes a fun personal challenge, “he says.
Some companies invest in gamification to train employees or to retain customers. “Many of the concepts applied in companies came from games, such as ranking and points program to motivate employees or consumers,” explains Arie Halpern. The giant Microsoft is one of the companies that embrace the gamification strategy. The company’s HR department led the deployment of this technology geared towards the employees as a way to reduce the management difficulties. It is used in the training of teams and also to improve the performance of offices. Managers and senior executives win “merit badges” when completing a specific training.
Andre Behrens, the product engineer of the New York Times newspaper, quotes in his blog some of the products that are using gamification correctly to engage the consumers, highlighting the finance application Simples.com. According to Behrens, in addition to a beautiful and friendly interface, the application created challenges and objectives tailored to users, causing these to change their habits regarding financial control.
Entrepreneur Portal explained in an article published in 2015 why gamification attracts both the consumers and the employees of a company. The main point is that the game makes us resume abilities and memories from childhood. This makes the user feel more motivated and able to achieve challenges. The benefits are so visible that the process of gamification is becoming an industry on its own. In 2015, the Portal GamesIndustry estimated that in 2016 the industry of gamification would reach $2.8 billion. For Arie Halpern, it all boils down to a matter of engagement. “When we are engaged in what we do, whether in study or work, we produce more and better. What games do is to stimulate these users’ connection with their task, making them more engaged “.