The application of game mechanics can be seen almost everywhere these days. From earning hotel points and frequent flyer miles to playing the Monopoly game at McDonalds. But while this type of engagement technique continues to get lots of attention, it’s actually been around for a long time. Some of you may remember back when you could collect UPC symbols from cereal boxes and redeem them for toys, t-shirts or other prizes. It applied game mechanics to a non-game context—eating cereal. This technique, known as gamification, is making impressive headway in the world of training, employee engagement and more.

My kids have grown up playing games like the Nintendo DS, Wii and various apps. Digitized games have become part of growing up. And even those of us who didn’t grow up with digital games, we’ve likely played them as adults. So it makes sense to use something so familiar to so many in order to encourage positive change.

According to the State of the American Workplace study by Gallup in 2013, seven in 10 American workers are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their jobs, emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive. Considering those dire numbers, it’s obvious there is a need of techniques that will engage and motivate people on the job

We’ve used gamification to help clients engage their dealer or distributor networks and seen participation increase compared to non-gamified programs. The purpose of gamification is to make doing something or learning something fun, even exciting. Whether it’s a spirit of competition, wanting to earn virtual badges, conquer levels, earn virtual prizes or anything in between, gamification provides many different forms of motivation that can increase the engagement with a training program and contribute to knowledge retention.

Gamification, however, can do more than engage a workforce. It can also help solve real-world challenges, like staying fit. NikeFuel allows you to track your activities and monitor how you’re doing compared to a week, month or year ago. In essence, you have a clear visual map of your progress. It also has a competition element where you to see friends’ progress, and it provides positive feedback and allows you to earn points for awards, trophies and surprises based on how much you do. It’s turned fitness into a game, providing extra motivation to be active.

You can also see gamification in the automotive industry. Volkswagen created the SmileDrive app that scores drivers on the number of miles driven, how many Volkswagen vehicles you pass, taking a road trip and more. You can earn virtual stickers for various milestones and use Smilecast to log your trip, and post photos and messages from the road. The SmileDrive app combines gamification with a social element that lets users share their adventures on the road.

Ford developed the MyFordMobile app for its Focus Electric that tracks how many gallons of gas you’ve saved, CO2saved, efficiency and more. Additionally it provides local as well as national rankings for the highest average driving score. It’s a great example of motivating customers to use a product to its full potential as well as engage them with the brand and other owners.

There’s even a gamification initiative for home utilities called the Green Button, which calls for a common, customer-friendly format for storing and sharing energy usage information. Green Button-compliant utilities provide web portals where customers can download their personal usage data and compare their usage to others, in essence creating a competitive environment that compels you to lower your energy usage.

Another industry in which gamification has great potential is education. In fact, variations of game mechanics entered the education industry back in the 1980s with games like Carmen Sandiego that encouraged students’ interest in geography, world cultures, astronomy and history. Whether you call it gamification or edutainment, both have the same goal in mind: to motivate students to learn beyond the traditional classroom. According to the Education Arcade at MIT, actions regularly demonstrated by gamers, such as attention to detail, problem solving and persistence, would ideally be demonstrated in schools.

With the success gamification has had in different industries around the world, it’s not surprising to see that it’s also being used to help address some of life’s greatest challenges like hunger, poverty and disease. For example, the computer game Foldit allows gamers to contribute to scientific research by virtually folding proteins. According to the makers of Foldit, the more scientists know about the different ways certain proteins can be folded, the better they can design new proteins to combat disease-related proteins and cure diseases.

It’s projected that by 2016 businesses will spend $2.8 billion on gamification, a huge jump from the $100 million that was spent in 2010. When you consider that as a planet, we spend three billion hours a week playing video and computer games, it makes sense to incorporate game elements into areas of our lives where motivation and engagement are needed most. Gamification is an exciting tool and it will be even more exciting to see the effect it will have on our future.

My Entrepreneurial Confession:  I’m not a big gamer, but those games that I have played definitely draw you in and make you want to play over and over again. I’ve seen gamification work in business and I can see its potential in changing our world on a much greater scale than it already has.

Looking a training solution that will educate and inspire your team? Whether you need a virtual, in-person or blended solution, our instructional design experts apply the latest adult learning principles and technologies to make your training program a resounding success. Contact us today.