"Gamification is a design method used to create involvement through a mechanism and a graphics component of video game origin". Simple, isn’t it? Yes, if you are a guru of the field such as Fabio Viola, education coordinator of the Master in Engagement & Gamification at the IED of Milan and member of the scientific committee of the Master in Gamification at the Tor Vergata University of Rome. A little less if you're not part of the generation that was born and grew up in the times of the Commodore 64, of arcade cabs and portable consoles. Because this is what originated a tendency that from 2010 onwards has made a breakthrough both in marketing as in the world of training, fundraising and social commitment.
Resuming the game dynamics typical of videogames, enterprises and institutions are trying to attract the attention (increasingly scarce because of the overabundance of input) of customers, employees and supporters through a mechanism that offers rewards based on a points system. "To do this – explains Viola –it is necessary to give the user and his/her engagement a central position in the project: that is the key issue. To this you can then attach the messages to be transmitted". In short, an approach that starts from the form rather than content without forgetting the final user: "Analysis of the public is the first step of each gamification project. And if inside the company this process is facilitated by the knowledge of individual users, you do not have this amount of data in the consumer market – said Viola -. This is why we always want an interdisciplinary approach that starts from a good base of game designing".
There is no shortage of examples: from Pepsi to Starbucks and everything in between from Microsoft to Google, Nissan, the London Underground and healthcare organizations that are involved in the third age. As a lowest common denominator there is a series of factors that contribute to structuring the user’s experience. First, the challenge: the purpose of gaming and why a person continues to play and tries to pass tests. Everything is aimed at achieving objectives which can be unblocked at each change of level and for which a reward (virtual benefits or otherwise) is expected based on accumulated points. Finally, the ranking that relates users to each other in a competitive situation. Details that emerge as soon as you download on your smartphone the Zombies Run app. Basically it is a software very similar to the more serious Runtastic but with an original motivation for wearing the shirt, shorts and running shoes: escaping from the undead in a post-apocalyptic environment (so much for The Walking Dead). Through a series of missions, which correspond to travel modes (which vary in time and length), you can retrieve objects for our base, meet friends, get the bonuses. And of course, advancing the narration to the next junction. All while the app tracks the races with GPS and pumps music into your ears from a source of your choice (the personal archive or Spotify, for example).
Good part of the investment over the next few years will be in the gamification enterprise , in view of the entry of generation Z into the world of employment.
Similar types of logic then bent to different purposes: "A good part of the investments of the coming years will be in enterprise gamification: about 2/3 of Italian companies have similar projects planned. Especially in view of the entry of generation Z (born in the new millennium, ed.n.) into the world of employment, for whom you are already trying to get to find a place of work more cut out for their habits", said Viola. And even if you take account of a gap of about three years from the English-speaking world where the gamification is initially developed, in Italy also the trend points to a progressive recovery.
Indeed, there are those who think that gamification can combine practical training and selection of more traditional staff and even replace them: "Here in Italy – explains Viola – there is still no community of genuine experts and professionals. The sector is substantially cannibalised from the video game industry or from marketing departments. While for all companies that want to develop similar projects it would be ideal to have someone who takes care of gamification or user experience within their own staff so that we don’t settle for basic proposals made only of badges and stars".
In short, gamification in is still largely and unexplored area which according to some estimates is already worth about 5.5 billion dollars. Figures that then end up creating products such as Holiday Wish, the app of the Usa Target distribution chain, launched last Christmas that allowed the children to create the classic letter to Father Christmas through a 3D gaming experience. In six weeks the result was considerable: over 100,000 wishlists made, about 9,200 new Target.com accounts subscribed to and 1.7 million products added to the wishlist of the e-commerce channel for a total of 92.3 million dollars of potential sales. A windfall for a company whose competitor is a digital colossus like Amazon.