Games at Work Part 1: Introduction to Gamification and Applications

Games Are Everywhere

How many of you (will admit to) remember playing Pong? OK then, do you play Angry Birds on your phone during work hours? Thought about why we keep playing online, video, and mobile games and what this "gamification" business we're hearing about means for the enterprise applications user experience?

Pong, image available as WikiMedia Commons

In Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal says that playing computer and online games now provides more rewards for people than their real lives do. Games offer intrinsic rewards and happiness to the players as they pursue more satisfying work and the success, social connection, and meaning that goes with it.

Yep, Gran Turismo, Dungeons & Dragons, Guitar Hero, Mario Kart, Wii Boxing, and the rest are all forms of work it seems. Games are, in fact, work taken so seriously that governments now move to limit the impact of virtual gaming currencies on the real financial system.

Anyone who spends hours harvesting crops on FarmVille realizes it’s hard work too. Yet games evoke a positive emotion in players who voluntarily stay engaged with games for hours, day after day. Some 183 million active gamers in the United States play on average 13 hours per week. Weekly, 5 million of those gamers play for longer than a working week (45 hours). So why not harness the work put into games to solve real-world problems? Or, in the case of our applications users, real-world work problems?

What’s a Game?

Jane explains that all games have four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. We need to look at what motivational ideas behind the dynamics of the game—what we call gamification—are appropriate for our users. Typically, these motivators are achievement, altruism, competition, reward, self-expression, and status). Common game techniques for leveraging these motivations include:


  • Badging and avatars
  • Points and awards
  • Leader boards
  • Progress charts
  • Virtual currencies or goods
  • Gifting and giving
  • Challenges and quests

Some technology commentators argue for a game layer on top of everything, but this layer is already part of our daily lives in many instances.

OTN Discussion Forums: E-Business Suite leader board

We see gamification working around us already: the badging and kudos offered on My Oracle Support or other Oracle community forums, becoming a Dragon Slayer implementor of Atlassian applications, being made duke of your favorite coffee shop on Yelp, sharing your workout details with Nike+, or donating to Japanese earthquake relief through FarmVille, for example.

And what does all this mean for the applications that you use in your work? Read on in part two...

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Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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