Gamification: it’s everywhere!

By Glenn Battishill

It’s no secret that video games can be addicting. People will dump absurd amounts of time managing imaginary crops, killing pigs with weaponized birds or shooting enough terrorists to fill up Hades. But if people know that most, if not all, of what they do online doesn’t really matter, why do they do it?

Simple; achievements.

Achievements, for those of you who don’t game, are a virtual points system that rewards you for completing various tasks or challenges. The term is used across all the consoles (except Playstation, who still thinks “Trophies” was an original idea), PC games and even mobile and Facebook games.

Basically the game, gives you points for beating a level, acquiring X amount of currency or completing a game using only X tools.

The points they assign are utterly meaningless, giving you no real world rewards, except for sparking rivalries with friends or using them as severe bragging rights around other gamers.

It’s a system that has helped keep games like “World of Warcraft” and “Farmville” from becoming stale over the years, offering players chances to get new achievements and increase their score.

This system shows up in thousands of games nowadays, from the leveling system in “Call of Duty”, to the star system in “Angry Birds” and beyond. The use of numbers and experience points make players think they are so close to the next level and achievements that five more minutes would get them much further.

People in the real world call this concept “Gamification” and are picking sides on the issue. On one hand people want to use gamification to enhance their business or motivate their customers. Think about credit card reward programs; get points for spending money, the more points, the better prizes! It works the same way, people see they are only a little ways from their next point level and go out to buy a box set of “Home Improvement” even though you never really cared one way or the other for the show.

Companies use this concept to motivate their employees as well; meet a sales quota and receive a bonus check. Salesmen increase productivity in order to redeem their points for great prizes like a new polo shirt or a water bottle.

The other side of the argument is that you shouldn’t have to create an arbitrary point system in order to motivate employees, customers or students.

But does gamification really work?

The answer is a resounding “yes”. I’ve noticed myself playing one more game, after I would usually quit, just to unlock a new rifle that I won’t even try until the following day. Or borrowing games I don’t even like or want to play just because I can score a couple hundred easy achievements.

Professors and teachers have already experimented with gamifying education techniques to encourage teamwork and studying.

You might not agree with the concept or uses of gamification but you can’t argue with the results; why else has your mom spent the last two months spamming you with Farmville invites just so she can get the next pasture unlocked.?