Gamification Fundamentals 1
“Work is more fun than fun” – Noel Coward
Some of the current fuss over gamification is driven by demographics. The video game industry, now in its 30s, has touched the lives (often at length) of most workforce participants. The result is a desire for the simplicity of game dynamics and a results stream that feels like a game. The broad move to make goal setting hierarchical and easy to navigate is an expression of the underlying cultural shift towards gamification.
“By the age of 21, the average American young person has spent over 10,000 hours playing computer and video games. That is almost exactly the same amount of time an American student spends in the classroom from 5th Grade though High School Graduation”
- Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
The primary skill learned in those 10,000 hours is collaboration. In contemporary video gaming, the question is rarely winning. It’s much more likely to be sustained personal development and the willingness to help others. Many gamers are happier tackling challenges together than engaging in some form of winner-take-all scenario.
Playing video games requires a commitment to learning a complex problem set that never has a rule book. In some ways, the game is all about discovering the rules through trial and error. Repeated improvement through failure, the very essence of personal development, is part and parcel of the process.
It turns out that people are happiest when they are engaged in a difficult task that they chose for themselves. That dynamic coupled with the ability to measurably improve one’s expertise is at the heart of the instantaneous absorption that many players feel once they get the hang of the game. Complex gaming environments create feedback loops that provide intrinsic rewards for sustained engagement.
Games produce at least two interesting emotional states:
- Flow: is the feeling of intense concentration and efficiency, that ‘in-the-zone feeling. Athletes and musicians experience flow. It is said to take ten years to achieve the skills, muscle memory, and understanding needed to find flow within an activity. Key aspects of flow include a challenge with clear goals, well established rules for action, and increased difficulty over time. Games make it easy to achieve the experience of flow. This explains the gamer’s desire to stay in the game.
- Fiero: the Italian word for “Pride” and a term often used by game designers to describe emotional elation after a huge discovery or victory within a game. It’s usually expressed when a player throws their arms over their head and yells! Fiero is one of the most powerful neurochemical highs that we experience.
Although it’s hard to see at first, game skills are to the 21st century what industrial skills were to the early 20th. The very nature of work is changing with the pace of technology. Jobs doing things we couldn’t imagine go from obscurity to the center of the map seemingly overnight. As tech change continues to accelerate, the kinds of jobs we do will continue to evolve into surprising areas.
That means that nothing is going to be more valuable than a desire to learn in an environment where the rules have to be discovered. Collaborative analytics are exactly the right skill set required to digest the coming flood of data.