I remember a time when I was obsessed with Super Mario Brothers. Coming home from school, I would spend hours (as Mario) running and jumping across platforms and atop enemies through different levels. The most fascinating aspect of the game was when Mario would receive a power-up, an object that gave him special powers such as the ability to shoot fireballs or gain extra lives. Although it’s been close to two decades since I last played the game (I guess, I grew out of them!), I still think about why I was so hooked to it in younger and more formative years. Apart from the obvious reason that it would help me escape from the real world (at least till it’s time for homework), video games gave me a sense of accomplishment when completing milestones by moving up levels and gaining powers. Milestones in games are easier to track than in the real world, with Mario (my favorite digital avatar) advance in skills as the storyline in the game progresses to the next level.
In today’s always-connected world, principles of gamification that existed in video games are now used by brands to record, track and give use a sense of achievement in our everyday lives. As a newbie runner, I recently bought a fitness tracker to track the amount of steps I take in a day and the distance I travel on foot. This gives me feel great when I meet my daily goal and also turns fitness into a healthy (pun intended) competition when I compare my progress with colleagues and friends. All these insights are recorded in a simple app. Fitness isn’t the only goal that is tracked digitally – Other apps and websites exist that track progress for activities such as learning a new language (Hola, Duolingo) or meeting your summer reading goals (bookmarked by Goodreads). Even on days when I want to disconnect from online activities, I write my checklist on paper to gamify my tasks – by crossing out activities I’ve completed and recording my progress at the end of the day, I attach simple rewards such as an extra scoop of ice-cream (which in turn, will result in adding a new task in my checklist – to run a little extra tomorrow!).
At work, as part of a marketing team for a large B2B organization, we’ve ideated on and implemented gamification techniques to drive customer engagement across internal and external communities. As we launch new and innovative products and services for our clients, we work with the learning & development teams to incentivize sales leads to know more about these offerings by encouraging them to complete sales awareness training modules – with winners standing a chance to receive a free, tangible award such as an intelligent personal assistant, a swanky new phone or an e-commerce gift card. To continue driving engagement from clients and increase the lead generation pipeline, we’ve found gamification as an increasingly useful technique. Our teams are also working on content that is aimed to elicit inquiries and responses. Based on interest level, select audiences can then be given exclusive access to webinars, customized content pieces and invites to events. As a technology marketer, I’m fortunate to work on these ideas, brainstorm with creative colleagues and partners, and work with technology specialists to design and implement gamification as an effective B2B marketing tool.
So, why is gamification so effective? I read an article on Scientific American recently that detailed how motivation plays an important role in our lives. The piece goes on to say that individuals feel more motivated when they are in control, are working on tasks that are of value to them, and feel capable of meeting milestones while improving skills. Gamification gives the power of control and autonomy to us so that we can direct our own experiences while still being guided through to realize an achievement. The anticipation of receiving a reward at the end of a process creates positive engagement and makes us feel challenged. These principles around motivation are used effectively in apps and websites to retain users by encouraging them to keep playing, gain more points, and discover more information.
Do let me know your thoughts on how gamification is working for you for you and making you more productive at work and outside the office. Play on!