Why gamification is less about points and badges, and more about psychology

Type: Videos
By Caroline Cornell
16 September 2015

gamificationGamification has become another buzzword of late, but what is it exactly? And are companies effectively harnessing it in the workplace? In a recent conversation, gamification expert Yu-Kai Chou, he shares that there are still a lot of misconceptions about the field, and because of this, companies are either still skeptical about gamification’s business benefits, or they aren’t using it effectively.

Engagement benefits of gamification.

So, what is gamification exactly? Chou explains: “Gamification is essentially taking the motivating, fun aspects of games and applying it to something useful, like education, training, health care, or product design.”

He says that it’s more complex than merely playing games on the company’s dime, but instead is a way to make work fun. If a game is successful, it can be an extremely powerful tool for educating employees on the job, or encouraging their competitive spirit to achieve organizational goals.

“If you can create an environment where people not only take the desired actions, but they also do it joyfully…it will always be useful,” Chou shares.

Gamification requires an understanding of behavioral analysis and psychology.

Another misconception companies have, Chou shares, is that they can simply apply game elements—like points or badges—to a program and call it “gamification.” Instead, it requires a deeper understanding of human motivation.

“It’s not the visuals,” he says. “It’s really how [games] appeal to our core psychology.”

This is what Chou’s gamification framework, Octalysis, captures. The framework identifies eight core drives of engagement, which are essential for gamification success. By understanding what makes a game “fun,” companies can create long-term engagement.


Caroline Cornell Caroline Cornell is associate editor for IABC’s content department.

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