The General Perception of Gaming

A friend of mine complained about his 10 years old son doing nothing but playing video games the whole day.  He was worried and did not know how to convince little Jimmy to do something else with his time.

My friend was not asking for advice, but I did what any non-parent friend should not do and I offered exactly that. I told him to explain compulsions and how games create addictive compulsory behaviors that keep us engaged. Video games do not exactly improve personal development either. It is not good when you can’t control what you spend your time on.

Kids admire lots of people: athletes, scientists, astronauts, firemen, etc. Those people have not become who they are because of playing video games all day. Games are a source of amusement, but they should not prevent us from becoming something else.

Because of things like this, many grownups have bad feelings about video games. I feel Gamification is affected by that stigma too.

Play Your Way Out of Your Current Reality

A couple days later, my friend told me his son was moved by my explanation and did not play games for the rest of the day. However, my friend was frustrated anew, because the very next morning Jimmy was playing games again.

I was not surprised. I played video games a lot when I was younger, so I know exactly how it works. My mom hated when I used to answer “In a minute.” It was never a minute.

I told my friend that the best way to beat a game is with a different game. I advised him to allow the kid to play WHEN he finishes his tasks (as a REWARD). He should start with simple activities, but have them gradually evolve into more complex ones (i.e. LEVELS).

If you try enough tasks and add some fun things in between, a kid will eventually find other things he or she likes (mini games).

You can built an entire network of goals and behaviors that will help you improve yourself. Once you do, you will subconsciously reward yourself when you do right*. Your mind is gamified. Game mechanics are just techniques that we identified in order to tap into our mental wiring. Gamification works because our minds have evolved to learn from clues and identify progress.

Most companies are not in the entertainment business. Therefore, it is expected they will not believe that a video game will relate in any way to the problems they have to deal with every day. When you join that to the stigma of video games, Gamification does not look appealing. However, Gamification is a tool that shares principles that follow quite different objectives than video games do.

Gamify All Things!

There are things you need to do at work or even in life that are just plain boring. You know you need to do it, but you can’t find the motivation to put your energy into it.

Most of our clients who are reluctant to use Gamification fall in these groups:

1- “I don’t play video games.”

I hear that more than you would believe. It is probably true that good part of the younger generations are more keen on video games, but that does not mean the difference with Gamification is clear to them. The good part about this group is that once the difference is clear, they normally feel a lot more comfortable with the idea.

2- “Gamification did not work for us.”

Most times I will find companies only added some small changes, i.e. giving points, badges, and if we are lucky maybe also a leaderboard. That is not enough!

3- “People did not engage all that much.”

Let’s be clear, we are not building a video game. Your goal is to have people be more effective. Still, it is unlikely your employees will meet on a Friday night to fill out expense reports. Gamification is a tool, but it will not do such miracles.

Gamification is a great tool that is not used often enough. Indeed, most of the times it is not used correctly due to a lack of understanding regarding what it entails.

This post is not about parenting advice or how to solve your video game addictions. This post is about applying Gamification in business in order to improve productivity. There are too many things we need to do every day and our brains do appreciate some help getting context and guidance.

There are many examples of Gamification in enterprise applications, but I’ll use the Point of Sale system as an example. I don’t know of any POS game. I would bet there isn’t one, but we can agree it does not fit the type.

Business performance could be tied to many variables: larger carts, high margin items, preferred payment methods, checkout duration, etc. Each variable occurrence should be linked to an action. These milestones should visually reward the user’s actions. When you do it, you are helping him or her instantly identify the desired behavior.

Also, we could figure out when someone is not using a feature. Periodically, the user should be reminded in case he or she forgot. “Are you asking about protection plans?” (i.e. you have not sold one in 15 orders).

Even when you have monthly award or a daily leaderboard you are reacting after the fact. The problem with that is that many persons will only perceive the frustration of their current position.

Many enterprise applications involve objectives that can be measured and behaviors that should be encouraged. An agile organization should use Gamification as a tool for change and proactively induce improvements.

Finally, you don’t just gamify an experience for your users. You do it because you want the full focus of clients and employees in order to beat the clock.

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