The application of game mechanics can be seen almost everywhere, from earning hotel points and frequent flyer miles to receiving rewards for shopping. But while this type of engagement technique continues to get a lot 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, continues to make headway in the world of training, employee engagement and more.

According to Gallup, 51% of the U.S. workforce are not engaged with their jobs. Disengaged workers, according to Mental Health America, cause $450-500 billion per year in lost productivity. Gamification is being used combat this disengagement in the workforce and beyond.

The purpose of gamification is to make doing something or learning something fun, even exciting. Whether it’s a spirit of competition, the desire to earn virtual badges and prizes, conquer levels or reveal hidden features, gamification provides many different forms of motivation that can dramatically increase engagement.

We’ve used gamification to help clients engage their dealer or distributor networks and have observed an increase in participation compared to non-gamified programs. We created a sales incentive program that resulted in 99.2% dealer participation and an 18% sales increase by gamifying a competition that rewarded dealers in two categories: total sales and most improved.

Gamification in education is continually on the rise. Industry experts have asserted that interactive learning games can increase long-term knowledge retention rate by a factor of 10. We’ve developed web-based training programs and Learning Management Systems that employ gamification to engage learners and provide a format for immediate performance feedback.

Gamification, however, can do more than engage a workforce. It can also help solve real-world challenges, like staying fit. Devices like the Fitbit® allow you to track your activities and monitor your performance daily, weekly or for a longer timeframe. If you have a competitive streak, you can compare your stats with friends and family members or just try to top your own stats. It’s turned fitness into a game, providing extra motivation to be active.

Progressive Insurance has turned to gamification to promote safer driving among its policyholders. With the company’s Snapshot program, drivers receive a personalized auto insurance rate based on their actual driving. A mobile app or plug-in device tracks how many miles you drive per day, how often you drive between certain hours and how often you slam on the brakes. Some may feel this is a little too “big brother” for their driving tastes, but others jump at the chance to lower their insurance rates.

Gamification is also used by auto manufacturers. The Toyota Prius Prime uses gamification to show owners their level of driving efficiency. A score out of 100 is given based on acceleration, braking and use of Eco mode. The higher the score, the more efficiently you’re driving.

With the success gamification has had in various 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. The site has a leaderboard based on different categories, including what level you’re playing at and whether or not you’re playing as an individual or group.

It’s projected the worldwide gamification market will grow to $22.9 billion by 2022. When you consider that as a planet, we spend roughly 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 impact it will have in the future.

How are you using gamification in your business and/or how do you plan to use it in the future?