Gamification and Gaming

Gamification has been bandied about by brands, marketers and the media alike for a little while now, but there seems to be a misunderstanding of what this concept is. So, what does it *actually* mean?

Wikipedia says:

Gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences.

Gaming on the other hand:

Gaming is the act of playing a game.

There is confusion, it seems to me, that a lot of people believe by creating a game as a tactic within your communications strategy, somehow you are all of a sudden entering the real of gamification.


You have created a game.

This is very different. By creating a game, you’ve inadvertently taken on the likes of Rovio, or Sega, for (an extreme) example.

Gamification is the application of gaming mechanics, such as collecting, achieving and competing, to reach an end goal or conclusion.

Jeff Attwood, on of the folks often cited as being at the heart of this trend said in a recent blog post on gamification:

I feel a little responsible for “Gamification”, since we’re often cited as an example (even, much to my chagrin, on Wikipedia). I wanted to clear up exactly why we made those choices, and specifically that all the gaming elements are there in service of a higher purpose.

Ian Bogost rather wonderfully sums this confusion up:

I am not naive and I am not a fool. I realize that gamification is the easy answer for deploying a perversion of games as a mod marketing miracle. I realize that using games earnestly would mean changing the very operation of most businesses. For those whose goal is to clock out at 5pm having matched the strategy and performance of your competitors, I understand that mediocrity’s lips are seductive because they are willing. For the rest, those of you who would consider that games can offer something different and greater than an affirmation of existing corporate practices, the business world has another name for you: they call you “leaders.”

So. When you’re thinking about gamifying your communications, are you a leader or just another gamer?

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