Game ON for Gamification

As we move into our a new ‘new normal’, engagement is more important than ever. We investigate Gamification & see how this tactic is changing interaction for good…

Modern society, arguably more so than ever, deserves positive stimulation and fun. We have all stayed relatively home based for 12 months – and some will continue stationary for some time – so, how do you remain active and stimulated in your own life? How do you get that feeling of passion and enjoyment in everyday activities?

Those same questions are relevant for businesses. How does the corporate world engage their audiences, customers and stakeholders in this new normal? How do teachers teach students at home? How do corporate offices motivate their staff or induct new employees from home? These questions seep through all major areas of our life… but what if there was a way to engage anyone and everyone, with simple design and fun strategies?

For the last two decades, the word ‘Gamification’ has been making rounds within the design and entertainment sectors, and it has also infiltrated areas like education, the Military, and some corporate environments. It has proven to be a potent way to motivate people, to engage them and trigger areas of their brain that we as children, stimulate daily. The area of game-play.

What is Gamification?

“Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements.” (Wikipedia)

Areas of the Military and schools have traditionally used ‘game mechanics’ in their own way. From training scenarios in the Army, to teaching things like reading the time with coffee beans or other game-based, interactive learning tools (wink, wink - Wake); Gamification is the idea of making experiences feel like a game to increase engagement, motivate people through goal tracking, improve knowledge retention, promote team building; and the list goes on. It’s using tools we have evolved to respond positively to, and not limiting those to children. Us adults respond just as well to gamified learning!

So, is gamification the answer to getting momentum back into our lives post-covid? The very premise of engaging with something because you want to, not because you are being forced to, stimulates positivity from the outset. “The dynamics designers incorporate in successful gamification themselves serve as effective intrinsic motivation. This means that users engage with the system because they want to.” (interaction-design)

When we look at more traditional games that trigger great passion and interest, it can be a simple way to see the power gamification holds. Football for example, one of the most popular sports the world over. The desire to win sits at its very heart, and that competitive spirit surrounding it (and most major sports) draws in huge enjoyment, stimulation and support: “Football, rugby, hockey, baseball, and any other competitive activity rely on the competitive spirit to attract a mass following. Now, take this ‘motivating factor’, apply it to learning, and the result is ‘gamification’.” (insights.learnlight)

Learning is no different. Gamifying education can be fun, interactive, it can offer real-time feedback, and it can also create an addiction to learning. “Another, rather surprising, benefit of gamification in learning is the natural high it can give us, and the impact that ‘high’ has on the retention of knowledge. When our brain wants to reward us, it releases dopamine into our bodies, so when we win a game or achieve something important to us, we feel good. Learning about new things is, for many, a rewarding experience which causes dopamine release, and the rather fortuitous outcome of that natural drug ‘fix’ is that the increase in dopamine levels helps us retain that new information.” (insights.learnlight)

Even for UX Designers, it can be notoriously hard when you’re trying to strike a balance between the ‘fun factor’ and the tone of the subject matter: “You must tailor the gameplay and the rewards precisely to the users. The degree of apparent gamification and the nature of trophy-like awards that are suitable for an app where friends compete won’t suit a corporate environment that prefers more subtle approaches… you must fulfil certain user needs if “players” are to use the system without forcing themselves to.” (Interaction Design)

According to the team at Interaction Design, these such needs include:


  1. Autonomy– Users’ actions must be voluntary; you shouldn’t push them to adopt desired behaviours but instead insert subtle elements/prompts which they can find on their own and therefore feel in control of their experience.

  2. Relatedness– Users need to feel that your brand cares about what matters to them. Customizing your design’s content and tone to them are especially useful for fostering their loyalty.

  3. Competence– Related to autonomy, this need is about keeping users comfortable as they discover your design by never feeling overwhelmed or confused. For example, as users typically don’t like reading lots of text, you can use icons (e.g., a heart for “Save to Favourites”) or progressive disclosure.

Pufferfish have historically fallen within the realms of gamification. The unique UX design of elements like user-led exploration with our PufferTouch2+ solutions has led to their international success. Our universe of solutions are a great example of interactive, engaging tools that stimulate fun and enjoyment through traditional gamified tactics.

Those tactics include: UX design for interactive games and quizzes, the use of interactive hot spots that unlock video content, images and more, intuitive touch capabilities, and again, user-led exploration. The ability to be in control of what you engage with, and when. Even allowing multi-users on the sphere at one time. It sparks joy, it makes key messaging truly memorable, and it draws customers in to your brand. Sensory storytelling and sensory exploration at its best!

We would love to hear your stories of gamification, and how you have implemented traditional game tactics into your work, events, content; and the results you’ve seen.

As the world shifts to a new 'new normal', gamification design and clear gamification strategies are more important than ever.

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