How Gamification Works

Current Challenges and Future Prospects for Gamification

Gabe Zichermann stated that "engagement is the new metric" for marketing success. However, he also emphasizes that gamification itself does not always lead to that engagement. Zichermann points out that the game always favors its creator, or, to use the popular casino adage, "The house always wins." With that understanding, game developers in game-based marketing scenarios must still find a way to get people engaged easily and keep them engaged long-term [source: Zichermann].

In his talks and writings, Zichermann cites examples of companies that attempted to gamify their customers' experience with a program that came up short of gamification's ideal scenario. One example is Nike's Nike+ program (pronounced "Nike plus"), created so runners could share their activity with others. For someone who was not already in shape to run a couple of miles, though, the scoreboard provided no reward for introductory efforts and was actually a disincentive to continue using Nike+.

Another example, which Zichermann calls an almost-success, is the Chase Picks Up The Tab program. The program rewards existing Chase customers at random for making a credit card purchase by crediting their accounts the amount that was charged for that purchase. Zichermann argues that the barrier to participate in the program is too high: applying for a credit card, including giving up extensive personal information, so that you can become a Chase credit card customer. Even then, the rewards are as random as casino slot machines.

While Zichermann makes excellent points as to why these examples were not ideal gamification scenarios, others think that Zichermann and like-minded entrepreneurs are attempting to steer gamification in the wrong direction. The gamification skeptics argue that the tactic is just a rebranding of the concept of manipulating the audience. Such coercion, they argue, is a negative influence on economic activity, whereas cooperation leads to a positive outcome. Another concern is that it's a short-term gimmick with no chance of long-term success. Even Zichermann recognizes that once you've gamified a behavior, taking away that reward system causes players to discontinue that behavior [sources: Doust, Brown, Zichermann].

The increased interest around gamification will likely lead to a continuous stream of successes and failures in gamifying our lives. As with any new trend, the more experience people have with it, the more we can conclude about its future. Will a refined approach to gamification become a long-term part of how we interact, or will the concept evolve into something completely different as we find better ways to accomplish the same audience engagement and problem solving?

We've just explored how people have applied gamification in business, school and the home, and we've looked at few reasons why gamification is and isn't a good idea. Now, just by clicking to the next page, you'll be rewarded with lots more information about gamification.

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