During the weekend, the game Soda Crush popped up on my Facebook feed, so I decided to give it a try. Before I knew it, it was 3’oclock in the morning and I was still glued to the game, fully focused at ultra- hard level 284. I couldn’t stop because I am just two levels away from getting a prize booster.
Just when I was thinking of giving up, my last move resulted in several combinations that allowed me to finish the level. What a rush! Eventually, I had to put down my smartphone so I could finally get some sleep. Because of its accessibility, it’s no wonder that it’s not only the young people playing it. Even grandparents get hooked on it!
Yes, such is the pull of the game. This brings me to the concept of gamification, which is defined as “the application of game-design principles in order to change behavior in non-game situations,” (Robson, et. al., 2015).
Gamification uses techniques like those in the videogame industry that get people spending long hours trying to get to the next level of their favorite game. It targets basic human drives like:
- need for autonomy (I can control the pace of the game),
- sense of purpose (I can reach the highest level)
- mastery (I am getting better at this)
- social connection (I get to play with other players)
Behavior is changed by tapping into these key motivational drivers of the players. This is done through both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.
According to Hunicke, et. al. (2004), the design and delivery of gamified experiences revolves around three principles:
- Mechanics tells us the goals of the game and how the players, whether individually or in teams, can progress through the online or real- world gaming experience;
- Dynamics looks at the behavior exhibited by the players during the game (cheating, bluffing, perseverance, bragging); and,
- Emotion refers to the affective states of the players as they play the game.
Thus, it is important that game designers understand who the players are and what motivates them in order to create not only engaging game experiences, but one that can change behavior. This must be done before determining the mechanics of the game. Bartle (1996) described players in two (2) dimensions: player orientation and player competitiveness.
In terms of orientation, players who are oriented towards others will be interested in the social aspect of the game, such as the interaction that takes place among players. On the other hand, players with self-orientation are more interested in how the game supports personal achievement and growth.
In terms of player competitiveness, it describes the extent to which players engage in competitive behavior. Figure 1 shows the typology of players in the gamified experience. For example, increasing task difficulty appeals to the competitive spirit of Slayers and Strivers, but not to Socialites and Scholars. Infinite play will more likely appeal to Socialites and Scholars. Team playing appeals to all types. The game should also be changed and the rewards upgraded from time to time in order to maintain the enthusiasm and motivation of players.
Figure 1. Typology of players in gamified experience. Adapted from Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDS. Available at http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
Game elements appear in many different applications and are widely used , for example, in education for improved student engagement, marketing for customer retention, and in organizations for increased employee productivity and engagement, including talent development.
As an example, gamifying operations can be applied to customer service representatives to make work more exciting and to increase productivity. This is to transform customer transactions such as inquiry and complaints into virtual tickets randomly assigned to the customer service agents (players). This results in a competitive but fun environment that increases productivity. Some examples of rewards can be in the form of:
- First Call Resolution for those who are able to resolve customer complaints at first try;
- Customer Quest for those who resolve X number of tickets within a week and get a customer’s commendation;
- Fast Resolution badge for those players giving the speediest response to customers; or,
- Creativity badge for those who come up with new ways of resolving an issue.
In talent development, game design elements can be incorporated into the organization’s knowledge management. For example, a customer contact solutions company in India launched an app that awarded employees points for attending learning sessions or training, knowledge sharing, and achieving performance targets. This is in addition to using gamification within training programs.
Gamification can also be used in the talent selection process as competing developmental activities are played out by the company’s competing talents. However, although the level of engagement of the players can be observed, the question of whether this directly translates to increased performance or whether it is reliable as an assessment method, will still need to be explored.
So, talent development practitioners: ready to begin the game?
Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDS. Available at http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
Hunicke, R., Le Blanc, M., & Zubek, R. (2004). MDE: a formal approach to game design and game research. Paper presented at the AAAI Workshop in Challenges in Game AI, July 25-26, San Jose, CA.
Robson,K. Plangger, K., Kietnam, J., McCarthy T., & Pitt, L. (2015). Is it all a game? Understanding the principle of gamification. Business Horizons, 58 (4), 411-420.