Gamification has been a smashing hit lately. It has been used by businesses to quintuple engagement, schools to foster learning addiction, and institutions to recruit top talent. As gamification begins to enter Vietnam and the rest of Asia, we explain what it is, the principles that make it successful, and how companies can begin reaping its rewards.
Gamification is the process of infusing game mechanics into non-game environments in order to reward participants for completing tasks. Think about how your fifth grade teacher would give you a lollipop after you completed a tedious assignment. In the corporate world, participants may receive discounts for completing surveys, or earn digital points for using a product. Apps with large doses of gamification include Fitocracy, SuperBetter, HabitRPG, and ZombiesRun! In simple terms, users are being awarded for engaging with the company in a similar way that you would be awarded in a video game.
But what is it about gamification that keeps customers coming back? The answer is a masterclass in psychology that takes us back to the primitive pleasure chemical – dopamine. Whenever you experience anything pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine – think about when you earn a reward, eat a slice of cheesecake, or kiss your beloved. The more dopamine we receive doing a task, the more we are intrinsically wired to want to do it. By repeatedly dangling rewards before users, gamification turns regular, boring events into continuous streams of dopamine.
In order to optimize dopamine flow, gamified systems are usually designed to draw on three psychological principles.
Rewards, as mentioned above, provide the constant stream of dopamine that engages users. Examples include virtual points for completing fitness goals, entertaining narratives for solving problems, and digital badges for filling out surveys.
Leaderboards permeate gamified systems. Everyone has an intrinsic desire to be relatively better than others. Therefore, when competition is infused, users are drawn back to out-do their peers. For example, a user may be motivated to return to a fitness app when he sees that his friend has reached new milestones.
- Loss Aversion
Behavioral economics has proven that individuals dislike a unit of loss more than they enjoy a unit of gain. A common approach is to start individuals off with something they would not want to lose. For example, in Khan Academy, users are allowed to start their journeys right away without signing up for the service. However, if they want to keep the hard work they put in, they have to register. Likewise, if players in Farmville do not routinely maintain their farms, their crops die.
Lucrative for Business
In 2013, global chocolatier M&M launched a gamification classic. The “Find the Pretzel” campaign simply asked users to find the pretzel within a large M&M graphic design. While simple and inexpensive, it got so many people playing and competing that it brought 25,000 new “likes” to the company’s Facebook page and received more than 6,000 shares.
On the other end of things, Target, one of America’s largest department stores, recently began gamifying its checkout system. Every cashier’s transaction speed and accuracy was tallied and a system of beeps and green lights was added to “gamify” the environment. Target witnessed higher cashier efficiency, reduced checkout times, and stronger employee morale. In the financial sector, Extraco Bank used a gamified system to teach customers about lesser known benefits that the bank could offer. The initiative increased customer acquisition by 700%.
It Changes the World
In 2010, the University of Washington launched FoldIt, an online puzzle game where players competed in figuring out the protein structures within researchers’ data. Developers were initially skeptical, but within 10 days, the 240,000 players who were competing had discovered the solution to the M-PMV structure – it became one of the biggest breakthroughs in AIDS research. Scientists had previously been attempting the problem for 15 years.
Kids Get Addicted to Learning
At Indiana University, Professor Lee Sheldon completely abandoned the traditional grading system and launched an “experience points” metric instead – one similar to the kind used in role-playing video games. Instead of trudging to preserve a grade, students were motivated to attain more points by completing more assignments.
Likewise, Ben Bertoli completely gamified his sixth-grade classroom in Indianapolis. His class is divided into an “inner realm,” comprised of the classroom, and the “outer realm,” made up of the Internet. Students gain points by completing quests in both realms. Surprisingly, this led to a large increase in the amount of time students dedicated to homework assignments. Bertoli’s project has since extended to a full-time web app, ClassRealm, which is funded by Kickstarter.
One of the more notable instances of gamification in Vietnam is PHD Vietnam, the domestic branch of PHD Media Worldwide. PHD’s latest operating system, Source, has been constructed using game mechanics that encourage the highest levels of collaboration. PHD Vietnam’s general manager Duong XuanHoa believes the new communication system will save businesses 25 per cent on total media budget.
As gamification becomes more widespread, we expect more companies in Vietnam and Asia to adopt its principles.