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Gamification

Pronounced /ˈɡeɪmɪfɪkeɪʃn/Help with pronunciation

Gamification (very occasionally spelled gameification) refers to the application of digital game technology and game design in areas of life outside games, especially marketing.

Its proponents argue that traditional incentive-based marketing has had its day. If individuals are prepared to spend hours collecting intangible points in a video game, the argument goes, they could easily be encouraged to earn rewards on business and retail websites through game-style activities.

For example, visitors could gain incentive points by posting comments on a site, or even by logging in, so encouraging repeat visits and customer loyalty. To encourage a spirit of competition, the visitors with the greatest number of points might be listed on a “leaderboard”, be given rewards such as access to private areas of the site or become eligible for special offers.

The idea is applicable, its advocates argue, to everything from global-positioning software to retailing and financial services. It would, they say, make sites easier and more pleasant to use and attract younger people who are comfortable with online games. Multiplayer games are also being tried at work to improve communication and coordination between staff, and it has even been suggested that boring tasks such as paying taxes or checking the weather might become fun.

In a related sense, proponents of game-playing point out that the skills we acquire by playing video games are making us better at real-world tasks, such as playing music.

There was a sudden proliferation of appearances of this word in the media in the latter part of 2010, although it is recorded from 2005 in academic and specialist publications. The linked verb gamify has also appeared.

With “gamification,” companies study and identify natural human tendencies and employ game-like mechanisms to give customers a sense that they’re having fun while working towards a rewards-based goal.

Fortune, 3 Sep 2010.

Marketers ... have seen the potential benefits of tapping into the growing “gamification” of our lives. Airlines, hotels, and credit card companies all understand our desire to be rewarded and to achieve status and have recognised that gaming is just making it more of an adventure, and more social.

Marketing Week, 30 Sep. 2010

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 2 Oct. 2010

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 2 October 2010.