Gamification: Beyond Child’s Play


Previously associated with unproductivity, video games were for some time perceived mainly as a form of entertainment—especially when played by adults—having little use other than their indisputable ability to engage and pass time. In fact, the activity of playing games, in general, is usually regarded as a pastime of children. Nowadays, however, the concept of gaming is becoming more multifaceted and multifunctional. The word ‘game’ is no longer synonymous with entertainment and recreational activities for children. It’s now recognised as so much more.

Creative skill and imagination is not only involved in the design of video games, but it is said to be a by-product of playing them, making engaging in game-play beyond childhood important in more ways than one. There are also various supposed health benefits associated with playing games (even games of a violent nature, surprisingly). According to a ‘growing collection of university research’, gaming improves creativity, decision-making, perception, self-esteem, motivation and even hand-eye coordination.

Gaming has, no doubt, become more popular, with one of the contributing factors being the advances in mobile technology, as well as the development of genres relating to self-improvement, learning and cognition. Thanks to the current mobile revolution and the accessibility of games and applications, the growth of gaming amongst all ages is set to continue. Even more so with the growing popularity of gamification: the use of game-like attributes in non-game contexts.

As of late, gamification has definitely become a buzzword, but it is by no means a fad. The concept, in its simplest form has been around for forever and we have probably all engaged in a gamified approach to doing something in one way or another, whether it was a reward system at school or a loyalty card initiative encouraged by your local coffee shop. But, again, there’s more to the approach than what meets the eye: the effective use of incentives to shape user-behaviour. And it’s not only the service providers that benefit from the repeat service or action. Gamification provides consumers with improved self-esteem, motivation and a sense of measured and recognised achievement. This almost certainly affects productivity in a positive way.

Gamification, in both the digital and real world, is fast becoming the most attractive way to engage a target audience. Today, gaming is integrated into everyday life to the point where we are playing games without realising, yet still experience some of the associated benefits. Service providers will continue to integrate gaming into everyday activities in order to engage consumers, and we can expect to be drawn into gamified approaches regardless. This is by no means a negative, and there are plenty of model examples, with business, education, healthcare and employment being among some of the industries being revolutionised by the concept of gamification—digital gamification, in particular.

Model examples of digital gamification include Spark+Mettle’s very own Discoverables, which encourages users to complete missions directly related to the demonstration specific skills. For example, completing the mission ‘tell a story about the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome, and how you did it’ would illustrate problem solving skills and resilience, attributes that are often desired by employers. Gamification is also reflected in site’s points/leader board feature, which serves as a motivator to continue completing missions, and in turn documenting skills. This is all enhanced by youthful animations and video game-like graphics, and the fact that ‘Discoverables are 83% happier than the UK average’ suggests that an online gamified approach can have great success.



Written by Kamara Bennett, a co-creator from the 2013–14 Star Track programme.