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Sample of Chapter 1: Gamification Basics

Gamification basics

Gamification is a process that involves adding game-like elements and psychology to traditionally non-game activities or products in order to increase engagement, motivation, enjoyment, and fun. Examples of gamification in various industries and fields include loyalty reward programs, apps that offer positive feedback for completing goals, educational software that makes learning fun and interactive, and productivity tools that use game mechanics to motivate employees to complete work. Chances are you are using multiple products each day that includes these types of elements. Did you purchase your morning coffee today? If so, how close are you to earning your next “free drink”? To further that, did you buy your coffee from a specific place knowing you would earn more or better rewards? That is the effect that gamification can have on our brains. Let’s say you made your own coffee this morning… was that decision based on any sort of financial tracker telling you to save money by avoiding the high prices of coffee shops? Or maybe making it yourself just gives you a sense of pride that helps you get your day started right, making you more productive. Gamification is happening all around us, all the time.

Gamification has become a widely recognized and effective approach to engaging and motivating users in a variety of contexts, not just coffee! This starts with initial marketing tactics and continues through the customer journey down the entire path. Game techniques can be applied to any industry in some capacity. Many people think of more “fun” products first, such as fitness, shopping, and leisure, but it can be just as effective in a serious context as well. Did you know that many emergency call centers (911) are timed on how quickly they can assess and triage their calls? By doing this, they know who the top performers are and can better understand how they could improve their efficiency in getting high-priority cases taken care of and moving lower-priority cases to a non-emergency department. Gamification also continues to evolve and expand as new technologies, advancements, and psychological research are developed.

As we discuss the topics throughout this book, examples and lessons will lean toward the role of a product manager (or one of many similar titles). And although this book leans toward that role, it is important to understand that the lessons are just as easily applicable to almost every role on a product or development team. Designers and artists can use gamification to capture users’ attention and help introduce features, functions, or important tasks. Programmers can use games to help collaborate on estimates or take part in hack-a-thons to sharpen their skills. Marketing can benefit from using game psychology to drive a great call to action for potential users. Even quality assurance can use these concepts to motivate and incentivize its teams. These are just a few examples, but anyone can apply these lessons to their product, their work, or their life.

It is also worth noting that we will not only highlight a ton of real-world examples of gamification in practice but we will also refer to a couple of theoretical products as well, one of which will be a social media application like Facebook, LinkedIn, or the platform previously known as Twitter. That application will be referred to as Product Management Media (PMM). The other is a fitness and wellness app like you might see from companies such as Nike or Weight Watchers. We will call it Hi-Z Fitness. We will see these products throughout their life cycles, from ideation and design to feature inclusion and refinement, and potentially take a quick look at marketing gamification for when the product is ready to ship. As topics are discussed, think about how you might implement the ideas in these products, and see whether you can figure out the approach that might be taken before you read about it!

History of gamification

The term gamification seems to have first emerged in 2002, when Nick Pelling, a British programmer and game designer used the term in a blog post to describe the process of using game design mechanics and techniques to make non-game activities more engaging. He was specifically trying to design a game-like interface for ATM machines at the time. However, the term did not initially gain widespread popularity. But, as a concept, gamification was taking place far before the term was established. And more so, as a culture, we have enjoyed games for much of our existence. Before we can discuss how game design theory might be applied to other practices, it is worth looking back at how games themselves got to be an over $200 billion industry… and that goes way back!

The birth of games

Humans have played games for thousands of years. In fact, archaeologists in the Middle East have discovered dice and other gaming artifacts that are thought to be over 3,000 years old! Chinese texts reference other tile-based games that date back to roughly the same time frame. The beginnings of card-based games can also be traced back to China, nearly 1,000 years ago, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). One of the earliest card games was the “leaf game,” which used paper cards decorated with intricate designs, and players would compete to form winning card combinations. The game spread through trading routes to other parts of Asia, and eventually to Europe. As the social aspect took hold, more and more people wanted to get in on the fun, and, over time, the various games evolved and became popular pastimes. Why humans love games can be hard to pinpoint, but many studies, including a 2021 study titled Stress-Reducing Effects of Playing a Casual Video Game among Undergraduate Students (source: PMC7952082), have found that playing casual games can be nearly as stress reducing as meditation.

In Europe during the Middle Ages, playing cards were often handcrafted and featured religious symbols or figures. The four suits we know today (hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades) evolved from the different social classes in medieval Europe, with hearts representing the clergy, diamonds representing the wealthy merchants, spades representing the nobility, and clubs representing the peasants. During the Renaissance, playing cards began to feature the royal figures we know today, with kings, queens, and jacks representing various historical and legendary rulers. The earliest known European card game was called Karnöffel, which was played in Germany, and the game is still played today as Schafkopf. As the popularity of card games increased, new games and variations emerged, such as poker, bridge, and gin rummy. Even Nintendo, who many consider the grandfather of the modern video game industry, got its start making Japanese playing cards all the way back in 1889.

To read more about this, please visit this link to order the book on Amazon and use the code "25gamifi" for 25% off!

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