Gamification is revolutionary. Since it was first given a name in the early 2000’s, there has been no denying that gamification had a power none of us have seen before. Gamification has been proven to increase engagement, performance, satisfaction, and productivity, among many other attributes.

For the past 20 years, it seems like everyone is trying to introduce gamification in one form or another. In some cases, the application of extensively planned gamification has been in a huge success. Unfortunately, the majority of gamification application has proven to be nothing more than a hastily added leaderboard or rudimentary point system that leaves users underwhelmed.

If that latter sounds a little too much like your own experience with gamification, fear not! Gamification is incredibly complex, often times, deceptively so; and many individuals and organizations overestimate the ease at which they can implement gamification principles successfully. The good news is, successful, and even revolutionary gamification is closer than you think.


What is gamification?

Before anyone can implement a successful gamification strategy it is crucial to understand what gamification is. In its simplest form, gamification is the application of gaming mechanics to non-game environments. However, don’t be fooled by the over-simplified definition; slapping a few ‘game’-like elements on a task and calling it gamification simply won’t achieve the results you’re hoping for.

Common gamification elements include:

  • Leaderboards
  • Points and badges
  • Avatars/Personalization
  • Roleplaying
  • SAPS Rewards Systems
  • Easter Eggs

There are no hard and fast rules that dictate what elements need to use to create gamification, it can be any combination of those listed above – or none of the most common elements at all.

Gamification is deep, it is planned, and it is complex. In fact, it is so complex that its definition doesn’t fit into the section of one blog – I’ve taken the time to go in depth on the definition of gamification and its history in my last blog article, which you can read here.

Common Gamification Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Overusing the Basic Mechanics

Too frequently, we want to grab the flashiest thing we see and toss it into our own operations. This is a mistake we see companies making time and time again in their quest to gamify work. Instead of providing an in-depth gamified experience, we’re shoving basic mechanics in our employee’s faces that they’re likely sick of seeing.

Ranking at the top of the most used (if not over-used) game mechanics at work – leaderboards! This mechanism’s popularity can be attributed to a few things, ease of implementation, the versality of scenarios where its useful, and on and on. To be honest, these are all great reasons to use leaderboards, and they can be a great mechanic when used properly! However, one leaderboard does not gamification make. Leaderboards have a very valuable use but after being used for just about everything – your team won’t be all that excited about the ‘new’ fun feature you implement if it stops there.

Rivaling leaderboard’s popularity are points systems. No one can resist a good point; they want to add them to everything – and for good reason! A solid point system opens the door for a plethora of positive feedback such as rewards, ranks, badges and beyond. Points are an easy way to keep track of and incentive performance – but just like their leaderboard counterparts, a basic point system will not maximize the outcome of your gamification.  Just like leaderboards, point systems are an incredibly valuable gamification mechanic when used in an effective gamification plan but when they’re implemented solo, it can be a flop.

Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the common conundrum – we want a quick fix and try to follow what we’ve seen implemented elsewhere. The problem becomes that these mechanics have been used to death. A simple leaderboard or point system is simply no longer exciting enough to start a workplace revolution.

Don’t get me wrong, the process of implementing any of these mechanics is gamification – but in order to really enjoy the big benefits of gamification, you’ll need to put in a little extra effort. When planning and implementation, it is crucial to ensure that that you’re not relying too much on one mechanic. The key to continued engagement is variety! Remember that your employees have seen gamification before, whether they know it or not, and they will need something extra special to get them excited about gamification at work.

Keeping Things Too Surface Level

One of the most common misconceptions about gamification is that it doesn’t require deep thought from those interacting with it. Yes, gamification is supposed to be fun and potentially distract a person from a mundane or undesirable task – that doesn’t mean it needs to be oversimplified!

A comprehensive gamification solution will tap into all forms of motivation, both superficial and deeper, more intrinsic factors. The best way to ensure that you’re providing a variety of motivation is to turn to the SAPS model.

SAPS, which stands for status, access, power and stuff, is most commonly used in marketing, but is just as effective in the world of gamification. Often times, employers assume that the most important reward to their employees is stuff (this bonuses, cash, etc.), however, many studies indicate that this is not the ultimate reward that we all assume it is. More intrinsic factors like (perceived) status, power and special access to information or tasks can be extremely motivating for different personality types.

Human beings are all so different, it is crucial to any gamification solution that there are rewards which appeal to every type of person.

Relying Too Much on Competition

Gamification is often simplified into turning tasks into a competition. It is true, that using employees competitive nature to drive performance is an excellent tool when used correctly, but it must be used with caution.

As outlined in my previous blog, competition in the workplace can be a double-edged sword. While some individuals thrive in a competitive environment, others can go the opposite direction. We all have different personalities, backgrounds and preferences that effect the environments which we thrive in.

It is crucial to consider all of your employees best interest when implementing a gamification system. Will they thrive in contests with the rest of their team? Would they prefer to challenge themselves to be better than they were yesterday? Would they be more comfortable working with a team instead of relying solely on themselves? These are all questions you must ask when designing your gamification solution!

Take Gamification to the Next Level

At ZIZO, we obsess over studying gamification solutions, what works and doesn’t work in every type of setup, and how can it be improved?

When we first founded ZIZO, we spent a lot of time analyzing similar products on the market to determine what was missing that was keeping them from being successful.

After quite a bit of research and studies, one thing became inherently clear – while all of these gamification solutions had some aspects that were great – none felt like a game!

Gabe Zichermann refers to the generation of individuals who grew up playing video games as Generation G. In Zichermann’s speaking about Generation G, he explains that this cohort grew up expecting different things because of their experience with games. They interact with immersive gamification daily, and even use it to escape mundane reality at record high rates. He argues that gamification is almost a necessity for Generation G, because they have been conditioned to expect gamification.

Connecting Zichermann’s ideas to the ideas of gamification expert, Jane McGonigal, who argues that we can provide the same exciting break from reality that leisure games provide by gamifying daily tasks – it became pretty clear what needed to be done to kick a gamification solution into high gear.

That’s why at ZIZO we didn’t stop at a workplace gamification solution – we set out to create an immersive gaming experience. We want our users to feel like they’re playing a video game when they come to work, all of the sudden – they forget their even working!

Instead of just making mundane tasks a bit more exciting with points, rewards, etc. we created a solution where users play work!

In addition to the immersive gaming experience and customized environment, users aren’t limited to one type of gamification. We offer users a multitude of contest and competition options as well as varied rewards and multiple currencies to appeal to each individuals preferences.

Instead of selecting a reward system that the group would hopefully like – we decided to let the users decide how they want to be rewarded and how visible they’d like to be.

Variety like this is absolutely crucial to the success of a gamification platform – especially to drive employee performance! Interested in learning more about how we take it to the next level? Contact us today for a demo!

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