Gamification: use the F-word in your concepts!

I am worried, I see Gamification as the next big thing. The moment I got involved, learned what it implies, how it can improve our lives (yes, really improve our lives) and what the potential is, I was completely hooked! To me it all comes down to one simple word: “fun”. However, every time I use the F-word, people seem to doubt the story. Enough reason to write a second post about this subject. Fun is an ugly word in the minds of many serious business people, or heads of organizations. I am 100% sure this is the reason why people are using words like engagement, motivation and problem solving when they talk about Gamification. Give it a thought, what is it that engage people, or motivates them. It is fun, nothing else.


Please take a closer look at the definition again:

“Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure.”

 This definition makes it very clear that “fun” can be interpreted very broadly. The enjoyment of pleasure can be found everywhere and might vary in strength. People can enjoy the pleasure of:

  • reading an exciting book;
  • watching a comedy;
  • cooking a nice meal;
  • training their dog;
  • work;
  • building a hotrod.

On the other hand people that enjoy reading an exciting book, might not enjoy building a hotrod, or training their dog. They might not even like dogs for that matter. Fun is experienced in different ways by different people. Still fun is key if we want to be successful with Gamification projects. Suppose you are creating a concept and you have a nice reward system. You got everything covered: status, access, power and stuff. But, what should be the mental state when someone receives a reward? Right!! They should feel enjoyment, a reward should bring pleasure. A Gamifier needs to think very thoroughly about what it is that makes it fun to receive them. This is the case for every game-element being used. Turn it into a fun experience whenever possible. Looking at the rewards, it is more fun if:

  • the reward has meaning;
  • the reward is presented in a special way;
  • you get the reward after really achieving something;
  • it is hard to get the reward, fail a few times first;
  • you sometimes get a reward when you don’t expect it.

Leaving fun out of the concept is saying goodbye to success. It is as simple as it sounds. Getting rewards is a fun mechanism in itself. With a reward system we can motivate people to change behavior. We push them in the direction we want with fun, nothing else.

This is only one example, same goes for boarding, game mechanics, user interface, basically every (game) element you can think of. Not everything is suited to give pleasure. Some services, or products are needed, but people just might not enjoy them, because they are simply not appealing. For those services it is possible to use the Nike+ approach. Nike is about sport goods, as we all know. Nike presents their products with care in a very nice, professional way. Still they chose to focus on what clients can do with their products and gamify that experience. First step Nike took is gamify running. Some people enjoy running, it is hard though to maintain motivated on the long term. Especially after a hard day’s work it is tough to find motivation. Nike+ adds something interesting to their experience, that even provides social pressure. It registers everything, the distance, which route you took and even how fast you’ve run. The Nike+ app makes it possible to share this information with your online friends. Likes from friends are fun to receive and motivates them to run more. It is also fun to monitor their own progress.

What does Nike gets out of this free app. Well, a huge community that needs running shoes. Nike now even created a position in which they are able to monetize on the app as well.

Imagine what would happen if Google starts to see the relevance of Gamification in regards to their products. The stuff they create is already great, adding some fun would make them irresistible. Change behavior on SEO for example; showing progress, create challenges, stuff like that. Doing so, people board faster and understand the product better in the process. That would shake up the competition for a while.

Marc LeBlanc divided fun within games into 8 categories:

Sensation:       Game as sense-pleasure
Fantasy:            Game as make-believe
Narrative:        Game as unfolding story
Challenge:       Game as obstacle course
Fellowship:     Game as social framework
Discovery:       Game as uncharted territory
Expression:    Game as soap box
Submission:   Game as mindless pastime

The list above might be of help in your own guest for fun.

Now it might be more clear why I use “fun” in my own definition of Gamification. Next to this I threw out every goal. Most definitions of Gamification carry a goal. This limits the use of Gamification for no reason whatsoever. “Make things fun by adding game-elements”, is my simple definition. What I want to achieve with it (goal) comes with the concept, where it belongs. To me it can be anything, engagement being one of the options of course.

Fun is the hidden power behind the success of Gamification, we need to realize this to improve our concepts. It will sometimes be a struggle because many people don’t use the F-word in combination with “serious” business. I say: “be serious and create a fun experience to achieve goals!” Think about it. Over the years we have improved applications in many ways, the user experience, velocity, functionality, etc. We can make things work, we know how to do that. So what is left to improve? The answer is simple, make the experience fun, use Gamification to fully satisfy your clients, employees, students or citizens! Consider it as an important part of web 3.0 if you will.

Gamification makes it possible to put fun into our daily activities so people enjoy your products even more. That’s the major business drive for the years to come! Some interesting numbers, if you still have doubts:

  • 97% of US kids, between the age of 12 and 17 years play video games
  • half of the internet population play games
  • 3 billion hours spent per week playing games globally

With these numbers in mind, there is only one thing left to do:

“bring joy to the current generation and welcome the millenniums by providing them fun game-elements they got attached to.”

Some serious facts:

  • every successful Game is fun
  • every Music Hit is fun
  • blockbuster movies are fun
  • a lot of sport teams that win a tournament are in a flow of joy during competition

It won’t take long before we can add: “every successful Organization is fun!” to the list above.


1 Comment

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