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Gamification is used as the buzzword for this application of game mechanics to everyday life. You may not have heard the term before, but you’ve most probably been experiencing it for years – whether earning wellness points and improving your Vitality status with Discovery, or filling your Kauai loyalty card with stickers to earn that free smoothie.
Gamification occurs when games infiltrate the real world and impact in some way, small or great, human behaviour. Gabe Zichermann, author and trailblazer of gamification for advertising, describes it as “non-fiction gaming”, where “game thinking and game mechanics are used to engage an audience and solve problems”.
By applying the elements of a game, such as experience points, badges, leaderboards and virtual currency, to mundane tasks, these tasks are made more appealing and engaging.
The implications for gamification are profound, and not limited to advertising. Both online and offline learning could benefit from adopting game-like principles to transform the rigid grade dynamics of traditional school systems. OpenStudy.com is one such example where achievement points, medals and fans have been introduced, in an effort to boost participation and interaction.
Interactive design companies, such as Cape Town based Formula D interactive, have also begun to harness this potential. According to director Michael Wolf, Formula D is currently designing an online game for South African energy provider Eskom, which explains different energy sources and allows the general public to make real-world choices to solve energy problems in an interactive, virtual environment. “We are amazed about the unfolding potential of online games in the context of learning, public relations and customer relationship management”, says Wolf.