Serious Games and Gamification

March 4, 2011

Games are an important part of our lives – online games take up as much as 3 billion hours of our collective time every week.

Playing games, we experience something everyday life is often lacking – clearly defined goals, endless motivation and a constant source of challenges.

Over the last couple of years, game designers around the world have tried and often succeeded in applying principles from games in fields such as health care, education, science, productivity and even crowd-sourcing.

To better understand what it is we are tapping into, we need to know a few basics about motivation.

We distinguish between two types of rewards that keep us motivated to play – extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic rewards include points, badges, levels, progress, combos and other kinds of payment, praise or tangible or intangible feedback.

Intrinsic rewards include the feeling of achieving mastery, being part of a community, the feeling of creating something unique and other deeply-seeded motivators.

Some of the caveats of extrinsic rewards are explained in this excellent talk by Dan Pink.

It is a common belief among game industry professionals that the recently coined term gamification refers to services (especially websites) that predominantly focus on extrinsic rewards (see Just add points).

A lot of love for this trend came from Jesse Schell’s talk at DICE last year.

At GDC 2011 (taking place this week in San Francisco), a panel of distinguished game designers was even debating the proper usage of the term (see Gamasutra article).

But regardless of how we call it, we believe tapping into intrinsic motivation is key to harnessing the power of games in traditionally non-gaming environments.

Just slapping points on something does not necessarily make it more fun (although it may produce some short-term results).

Our latest project is about understanding the space we operate in and using the existing social dynamics that are already in place to achieve the goal outlined above.

And what exactly is the space? A full blown professional call center.

Hopefully, you will be able to check back in a few weeks to follow our progress!

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