People play games in every culture throughout the world. Whether they are children or adults, people love overcoming obstacles, and solving puzzles sharpens their intelligence. They derive pleasure from achieving goals and become motivated to tackle the next task. This behaviour is being capitalised on now more than ever. This means that we play games without even knowing it. We collect points at the supermarket and enjoy cashing them in or qualifying as ‘Gold’ customers or receiving a discount on a cordless drill. It makes us more motivated to buy, work and learn. We use the term → gamification to describe this phenomenon.
In these games, entertainment is not the primary aspect. Instead, the focus is on conveying large volumes of information, which often works better than with conventional learning methods. After all, playing a game motivates us and makes us want to continue and have fun, in contrast to reading boring reports and learning materials. This approach used by ‘serious games’ can also be very pragmatic for DC and is already in use today.
The brief overview below illustrates this approach
Objective: Motivate the target group to perform certain actions or initiate a behaviour change.
Key characteristic: Playful elements and dynamics are in a context that is not a game (gamification); (learning) content is conveyed through games (serious games).
Examples of Serious Games
- vHealthCare: medical simulation for training doctors
- Foldit: Puzzles for protein folding. The data set generated by the users is used for cancer research
- Arabia Felix Games: serious game developed by GIZ for building peace in Yemen
Examples of gamification:
- DuoLingo gamified app and website for learning languages.
- Speed Cam Lottery: Speed measurement in Sweden, in which people abiding by the speed limit were entered into a draw and one person chosen as the winner of fines paid by the speeders.
- Miles & More: Loyalty points and other incentives to boost customer loyalty and influence customer activity.
The examples show that incentives do not necessarily have to be implemented digitally and can pursue different objectives.
Is gamification the right approach for achieving my goal? Use the questions below to determine the answer:
- What are the goals? Which method could be the right one?
- In which context and in which situation do I wish to reach the target group?
- Which game dynamics (such as collecting points, giving awards, ranking) can I use to reach the goals?
- How I can I verify that the target group’s activities have really taken place? For example: Are the learning results better after a gamified system has been used?
A crucial factor for the success of a serious game or of a gamified system is activation of basic psychological motivators such as social relationships, growth intentions (the need to become better at things) or expression of one’s own creativity. In short, things that are fun. A common stumbling block is the ill-conceived integration of game dynamics whose effects have not been carefully thought through. In other words, it’s not enough to just introduce a few points or a ranking system.
You have to choose the right composition of the gaming elements, which changes depending on the context and target group. Still, since games are a part of every one of the world’s cultures, the approaches can be used worldwide.