What is gamification? Real applications and examples

The game is much more than a form of fun, as neuroscience has shown. It has been discovered that it is a very useful resource for learning not only for children but also for adults. The game, used in the right way, offers a different way of learning and can bring benefits not only at the educational level, but also social and personal.

It was precisely because of the discovery of the potential of the game that gamification was born. This concept has become very popular in recent years and is basically the use of game techniques in non-recreational environments such as school or work. Its objective is clear: to improve the learning of knowledge and behaviors through concentration, motivation, effort and other positive values ​​associated with the games.

What is gamification?

Knowing about gamification and its definition is key to understanding what this strategy is and how it can be applied. Gamification, also known as gamification, implies use of game elements in non-playful contexts.

It is considered a learning technique or strategy that takes the mechanics of games to an educational or professional environment with the aim of achieving better results. This type of learning has attracted the attention of many, since its playful nature facilitates the internalization of knowledge in a more entertaining way, which generates a positive experience in people.

Neuroscience has revealed that at the time of play regions of the brain are activated that make people motivated to continue learning. The game also allows us to focus our attention and prevents us from deviating from what we are doing. Thus, Gamification seeks to understand what makes games, especially video games, so effective in terms of concentration, dedication and participation to apply these principles to other areas of knowledge.

Gamification then consists in posing a process (be it educational, sports, professional, social, personal, etc.) as if it were a game. The participants are the players and as they are at the center of the game they should feel involved in the dynamics and be able to make their own decisions, take on new challenges, feel that they progress, be recognized for their achievements, among other things. In short, they should have fun and feel as if they were playing while achieving their goals.

Background of gamification

Games have been part of human life since ancient times. When in 1922 an English archaeologist unearthed the royal tombs of Ur (Iraq), of what would be ancient Mesopotamia, a board was found that was later called “the game of the twenty squares.”

Throughout history, different types of games were created. However, the evolution of these and especially the way of playing changed radically with the arrival of video games in the 80s. This industry revolutionized the way of seeing the games, so much so that these became a matter of study given the influence I had this playful experience in changing people’s behavior.

The marketing world was the first to capture this influence and therefore, It is said that gamification has its origin in the business sector. The marketers were dedicated to using elements and dynamics of video games to capture and retain customers. And an example of this is the commercial strategy that has been applied for many years, such as offering gifts or accumulating points or coupons.

However, the concept of gamification as it is known today dates from 2003. The word, which is a loan from the English word ‘gamification’, was coined by Nick Pelling, a British business software designer and programmer. The expert referred to this term to explain a reality he had been observing. In his view, game culture was like a revolution that was reprogramming society.

Since 2003 the term of gamification was adopted in different areas. But it was not until 2010 and 2011 when the idea spread widely, thanks to video game designers Cunningham and Zichermann discussed the term at conferences and congresses. These assured that the term highlighted the need to transfer the fun, concentration and emotions experienced by people in the games to the different real-life spheres.

Gamification Applications

The concept of gamification involves taking the mechanics of games to different areas of life in order to take advantage of their advantages. Therefore, it is an idea that can be applied in virtually any sector, from marketing and education to health and sports.

To give you an idea of ​​gamification applications, we tell you where it can be used and for what.

  • Education and training: This is perhaps the most widespread area of ​​application of gamification. This strategy has proved very effective in training students and encouraging them to achieve their academic and sports goals.
  • Employee management and motivation: Human resources, marketing or information systems managers increasingly use gamification to manage projects and motivate their employees to meet their work goals.
  • Loyalty Programs: Electronic stores and retail can deepen the relationship with their customers thanks to gamification. This allows to offer loyalty programs that go beyond the classic models, making them feel more motivated to buy.
  • Health & Wellness: Gamification has also been widely used in the field of health and wellness. With it, campaigns have been created to instill good habits in the population, sensitize people about certain diseases, or motivate citizens to take care of themselves, either through the practice of sports activities or the adoption of a healthier diet.

Advantages and disadvantages of gamification

If gamification is characterized by something, it is synonymous with loyalty. The game dynamics make these fun, which helps in many ways depending on your application. Applying this technique can bring many advantages in any sector where it is applied. These are the most relevant:

  • Increase the involvement of people: Games increase dopamine levels, which causes increased attention and motivation naturally. When playing the brain is very active, which helps the person to be much more involved in what he is doing. And greater involvement means greater learning.
  • Improve knowledge retention: Learning necessarily implies retention of knowledge, but this is not possible all the time through traditional teaching. Gamification, through the release of dopamine, allows people to experience a sense of well-being that impacts knowledge retention.
  • Offer immediate feedback: With gamification, people can know directly and constantly the progress they are making regarding what they have learned, be aware of the learning process and correct the mistakes they make. All this motivates him to continue to move towards the next levels.
  • Improve teamwork: This strategy also encourages cooperation between them, something that is essential especially when it comes to work teams. Thus, they become more independent, since they must try to solve the problems themselves before going to a superior.

And the disadvantages?

Like any process, gamification also has its disadvantages. One of the main ones is the high cost that its implementation may entail, since the production of this type of materials often implies an important disbursement. But beyond the economic aspect, which does not apply to all cases, gamification can have other disadvantages such as:

  • Possible loss of productivity due to distractions from the game.
  • Oral expression is not a skill that develops with this strategy.
  • If it is not well applied, gamification can cause excessive competitiveness.
  • It can be difficult to find the balance between the formative and the playful, and if the activity loses its formative character it will not be productive.
  • You run the risk of getting a passing motivation.

Examples of educational gamification

One of the most important applications of gamification is in the educational field. Learning is one of the most complicated and even boring processes that exist, at least from the point of view of students, especially children. Therefore, gamification is presented as an alternative system to traditional teaching models.

But it should be considered only as a support in the teaching-learning processes. The academic content must be the engine that drives the game dynamics and the teacher is responsible for controlling and mediating gamification in the educational environment.

Examples gamification in primary

To apply gamification in the classroom, specifically in primary school, different tools can be used. An example is Class dojo, a gamification tool designed to help teachers improve the behavior of children in the classroom quickly and easily. Help them participate more thanks to the awards ceremony and recording information in real time.

With Class dojo Students can create their own avatar, which receives points based on their actions. To get these points set rules from the beginning and at the end of the game, who has had more, will get a reward. This tool stands out because it also works as a system of communication with parents since they can see what their children do and whether or not they receive points.

Another example of gamification in the classroom can be seen with Zombilogy, a project designed for students in 3rd ESO to learn geology and biology in a different and very entertaining way. Nothing less than surviving a zombie apocalypse thanks to the application of the knowledge taught in these two subjects.

Can also be used Kahoot, a useful social education web service for students and teachers. And it is that with this tool students can learn and review concepts in a more entertaining way as if it were a contest through questions, debates and discussions.

Examples of gamification in early childhood education

If you are looking for examples of gamification in early childhood education you will also find alternatives like the previous ones. However, in this case they will be more focused on learning more basic things such as how to eat or create habits. An example is the application Nutribén Fun Food, which is designed to teach children to eat alone, but in a fun way.

But it’s not just about gamification applications. It is also possible to use this strategy using other methods. One option is to give the children a feedback at the end of their tasks. You can do it by placing stickers with figures like stars or happy faces on their notebooks.

Gamification projects in physical education

Physical education is a subject in which children are already motivated, especially because it is an activity that they carry out outside the classroom. However, it is also possible to apply gamification on it. Healthy It is a gamification project in Spain, carried out specifically in the CEIP Ana Caicedo Richard de Lorca, in Murcia.

It was a project focused on getting good eating habits. The protagonists were five evil characters: obesity, motor skills, sedentary lifestyle, posture and apathy, who wanted to take away the health of the students. There was also a good character who fought against them. Each unit was based on one of these characters and the students had to perform different activities. At the end of all, they would reach the last unit that was health.

Gamification in companies

In addition to the educational innovation that has turned out to be gamification, it has also been able to take advantage of the business environment. And it is that companies have realized that they need interesting and even fun strategies to motivate employees and keep them focused on their work.

The company and gamification can make a pair of great value to motivate professionals to give their best, and thereby improve the productivity of the organization. An example of gamification in Human Resources is simulation. This is a widely used strategy to stimulate employee creativity.

In this type of strategy, participants are exposed to a real situation in which they must make decisions to solve it. Different cases are exposed and errors are not seen as something negative, but as an incentive to improve. In addition, at the end of the training prizes are usually given to encourage participation.

Another of the strategies that can be adopted in the company is the use of decorations or distinctions. Different criteria and mechanics can be established to recognize the most creative, collaborative, productive or best valued customers. Of course, it is key that the chosen gamification methodology is always motivating, constructive and generates healthy competition among workers.

Also keep in mind that applying a gamification course in the company can help employees in many ways, especially in their self-esteem. Thanks to this didactic help, people can fail without affecting them personally or professionally.

Gamification and video games

It is important to keep in mind that gamification and video games have similarities, but they are not the same. Gamification has to do with the integration of game mechanics in non-playable environments. Therefore, it does not create video games, but uses its operating principles to engage people.

For you to understand better, Gamification and video games have different objectives. The first seeks to encourage users to adopt a desired behavior or learn something. And the second only seeks to entertain; Its purpose is to have a good time.

In addition, it is a punctual activity in which people stop doing their activities to focus on the game. A “gamified” activity, on the other hand, is responsible for making a routine activity more entertaining. Which means you keep doing your homework, but now they are more attractive.

Gamification tools

With the boom that gamification has had, thanks to the advantages it offers to different areas of life, a series of tools or applications have emerged that allow this strategy to be implemented in different contexts and environments. Discover here which are the most popular, especially in education, and what they offer to those who use them.