What is Gamification?


It is impractical to associate Gamification's origin to a fixed time and space in human evolution - McGonigal was able to trace the use of games in society context back to 546BC (See McGonigal 2010) - Joseph Stalin employed badges, points and leaderboards during his 5 year transformation project in the old USSR (See Stakhanovite Movement 1930 - 1935).


There are several attempts to scale and claim definitive rights to the concept, however, in 2011, Sebastien Deterding defined Gamification as "an umbrella term for the use of game design elements in non-game contexts". Deterding's contribution to the discussion is highly encouraged and recommended by Game Studies practitioners.

One thing is for sure, Gamification is not a new way of thinking or doing things. It is the art of integrating "Game Rules" (e.g., Instructions and Narratives) and other "Game Design Elements" (e.g., Badges, VOIP and Points) into real-world solutions - the solution can be a new or existing innovation.

Common Understanding of Gamification

A review of academic and corporate literature on Game Studies reveal 5 common understandings;

  • Gamification is the use of game thinking, rules and other game design elements in non-game contexts. Some practitioners have emphasised that Gamification does not involve games and playing games, or video and digital games (See Monica Cornetti, Andrzej Marczewski and Ann Coppens, to mention a few).

  • Gamification is the art of extracting the fun and alluring elements that make video games fun, addictive and engaging, for use in real-work solutions (See Yu-Kai Chou).

  • Gamification works well in both digital and non-digital contexts. Educators in Spanish Universities are already exploring the art of Reverse Gamification.

  • Gamification presents an inventory of tools, processes, and techniques. There are 13 primary mechanics available to a project team.

  • Gamification cuts across various fields and disciplines, it succinctly focuses on "Player Types" and "Space" to establish, triangulate and drive desired behaviours.

How To Understand Gamification

Think of Gamification as an inventory of tools, processes, and techniques - it is the process of taking something that already exists and integrating game mechanics into it.

The role of the project team is to ensure that the right tools techniques and processes are selected for a pre-established journey.

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By John Adewole

John Adewole

Top 40 Gamification expert. Alumni of the University of Portsmouth and LSBU.

Twitter: @ifbjohn