Getting Serious: Why It’s Okay to Play Games at Work

February 21, 2017 | Ankita Poddar | HCI
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With the fall of attention spans, millennials streaming into the workforce, the need for instant gratification, and the search for purpose, gamification is the way forward.

What is it about games that captivate us? Instant feedback, motivation, and keeping the payers engaged are just a few of the many gratifications games can provide.

“Suddenly, gamification is the hot new business concept, with many of the world’s most admired companies signing on.” Fortune magazine said on October 17, 2011.

 Microsoft, Nike, SAP and American Express have experimented with gamification, among many others. Don’t jump onto the bandwagon just because everyone else is, but do so because it works.

Gamification is defined as the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts. Let me break the definition down for you. Think of game elements as a toolkit that you can use to make everyday scenarios more game like. The toolkit comes with challenges, points, and leaderboards.

Game design technique puts the tools together in a thoughtful, systematic and artistic manner to make the experience fun. You could play to achieve business goals, to increase hits on a website, or to get a job.

Games have much to teach us. They serve as wonderful mechanisms that influence behavior. Remember how Pokémon Go had everyone out on the streets? The number of hours spent playing Angry Birds alone in 2013 was somewhere north of 8 billion hours, which is about the same as building the Panama Canal every day. 

Games are more than just points, badges and leader boards. Successful gamification involves understanding multiple disciplines like psychology, design, strategy and technology.

Gaming in the workplace has been around ever since the 1920’s, but only since about 2010 in its current format. Yet six years later, we are almost exactly where we started. Organizations have incorporated gamification in learning, onboarding modules, and in spheres of employee engagement.

Gamification isn’t easy.

A 2012 Gartner press release said, “80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design.”

Continuous engagement is difficult. Games get boring if you do not keep them challenging and novel? Send your employees on a mission, and make it fun.