Malta: Catchphrase: Gamification

Last Updated: 19 May 2016
Article by Russell Mifsud
Most Read Contributor in Malta, September 2019

What is Gamification?

By the age of 21, a typical young American would have spent around 10,000 hours playing computer and video games. As writer Malcolm Gladwell has famously suggested, people who practice a skill for 10,000 hours by that age are likely to become expert at it. So it is easy to understand why airlines, armies and healthcare providers are using game mechanics to engage with people in new, more efficient and effective ways. This phenomenon is called Gamification. It is growing in appeal as it continues to ride the wave of the digital sector. It is a strategic tool used by businesses to help create unprecedented engagement with customers and employees and is expected to play as crucial a role in transforming internal processes, behaviour and organisational outcomes, as social media has had in revitalising customer interaction.

The science of motivation highlights how extrinsic and intrinsic rewards affect our behaviour. Extrinsic rewards is a short term boost and are not sufficient to sustain engagement. Gamification mainly uses intrinsic rewards. It sustains engagement as it involves people at an emotional level, whilst extrinsic rewards motivate people on a transactional level, which strives to leverage people's natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure.

At its core, Gamification is a marketing tool. It is a combination of gamified design leverages, smart loyalty programs and behavioural economics. It is essentially the process of taking all the fun things out of games and applying them to areas of life that are not primarily game-related. Take the Volkswagen team who transformed the stairs of a Stockholm subway into a giant functioning piano keyboard. The aim was to encourage commuters to exercise more, by making climbing the stairs a note-worthy experience. The car company noted a 66 per cent increase in people choosing to use the musical stairs over the escalator. 'Fun can obviously change behaviour for the better,' a VW spokesman said.

Gamification is increasingly being used as a tool in business, education and social media to better engage clientele, build up loyalty, spur on innovation and as a means of tapping into the capabilities of a changing workforce. Gartner predicted that by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. In fact, the gamification market is expected to grow from €1.7 Billion in 2015 to €4.8 Billion by 2018.

Alongside the obvious solutions offered, gamification can potentially reap significant ROI, alongside the evident solutions that Gamification offers the Remote Gaming sector. It is apparent that few operators are fully embracing Gamification's potential. When we look at the recent industry happenings within the Gambling sector, which have translated into heavy hits on bottom lines, the need to roll out effective strategies to effectively cut through the consolidated noise and create a work ethos that performs at optimal heights, is imminent.

Why is it relevant?

Your business success is dependent on how well you can capture and maintain your market's attention, in tandem with the input and enthusiasm that is derived from your internal workforce. As a result of a series of changes in technology, demographics and the economy as a whole, organisations are increasingly turning to play and games as a way of radically reinventing themselves. Global giants such as Sony, Cisco and Google are strategically aligning themselves and further investing in the art of Gamification. Consumer brands like Nike+ use gamified feedback to drive over five million players to beat their personal fitness goals every day of the year. Casino Operators such as Casumo, Casino Saga and Casino Room are successfully using gamification to help drive engagement in the marketplace and tap into the mind-set of the new generation of millennials. It has been predicted by Gartner and Research that by the end of 2015, more than 50% of corporations will be gamified.

'Millennials' is the term coined for the generation that reached adulthood by the year of the millennium and beyond. This generation has been brought up in a different world compared to that of its predecessors. Millennials' have a unique worldview, shaped by a modern socialisation influence, through the technologies that have become ever more prevalent in our rapidly evolving world. Millennials have been brought up in the era of game consoles and rapid game development. Research conducted on millennials has backed up the theories that they have higher expectations from life itself. They are considered to be more optimistic, are better able to make sense of matters of chaos, but generally have a shorter attention span. They require close supervision and constant feedback, reassurance and praise. The millennial world has come to expect additional means of being rewarded and unless classic business models are adapted to meet these growing expectations, then this may likely underutilise its evolving workforce and capture brand loyalty.

A survey by Right Management, the talent and management subdivision of the staffing behemoth Manpowergroup, suggests that worker disaffection is looming and growing. Managers in the USA have confessed that over 50 % of the workforce are not content with their current jobs. Ongoing studies suggest that there is an accelerating decline in satisfaction and engagement since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Identifying the traits that make up your organisation's marketplace and workforce and tailoring a structure to cater for your target market characteristics, will help provide an organisation with a strategic tool, to further drive performance, satisfaction, loyalty, recruitment, efficacy and innovation. The use of gamification helps facilitate the connection between employee motivation and company success – it changes how we think about managing people and how we think about our own performance.

Gamification for loyalty purposes

Gaming operators have begun to shift their strategy from one that was perhaps more targeted towards aggressive acquisition tactics, to one that is more concerned about customer retention. The lack of player loyalty that often looms above online Casino offerings is an obstacle that is well understood. Using Gamification to add to the experience of a player journey can psychologically provide players with the feeling that their presence alongside the brand is part of a bigger picture that carries more significance. This is one way that Gamified operators have emotionally captivated their audience and entice interest: what's going to happen next? Take Casumo's Casino Adventure along with their Casumo character, where time and energy are invested into progressing through the immersive narrative; levelling up, winning trophies and collecting items, all whilst bringing a sense of purpose that runs in parallel to that of their casino offering. The Casumo team have managed to engage their audience to create a more meaningful experience for the player that goes beyond being solely a platform for gambling.

Take another gamified example that can be used in conjunction with data analytics from a sportsbook perspective. An operator may wish to pack in a punch by developing innovative solutions to cradle and reward player loyalty. Rather than offering costly reload bonuses to regular bettors, having punters level up into a threshold that will automatically reward the player with better odds, than a less active punter or new sign up would be provided with straight off the cuff. You are rewarding loyalty through an innovative means, whilst also compelling your player to stick around. It will help deter a regular bettor from seeking short term gains through a bonus hunt across the competition. Offering an individual a sense of purpose and recognised importance, are two of the strongest intrinsic motivators that the human mind is hard coded to embrace. Successfully tapping into the behavioral economics of your target audiences' mind, is a sure way to increase loyalty levels.

Gamification for training and innovation

Engagement matters because it predicts superior outcomes. The Future Strategy Group (FSG) state that "games bring the competitive landscape to life." The more realistic a scenario feels to the participants, the better it will perform. Studies have proved that increased game playing is strongly correlated to improved performance in the health industry. A study conducted by Dr James Rosser from Beth Israel Hospital, concluded that the top one third of game-playing surgeons made 47 percent fewer errors and performed 31 percent faster on a test of their laparoscopic skills.

Gamification is currently flourishing in the educational sphere, as it taps into the mind-set of the generation using well thought-out game mechanics and a well-defined strategy which can help deliver material in a manner that is more effectively transmitted, digested and practiced. In fact, the medical industry has taken to applied games (a serious game or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment) to help train students through simulated surgeries. However, serious games are not necessarily just used for in-house purposes, they can also be used to tap into the global capabilities of gamers, such as in the serious game called 'Fold it'. The purpose of this game was to offer regular gamers the opportunity to solve a 'puzzle' that had stumped doctors for the past 15 years. Scientists had unsuccessfully been trying to find a way to maximise the surface area of an Aids virus protein structure. 'Fold it' was created to provide players over the internet, with basic but realistic building blocks, to try and solve the 'puzzle'. Within ten days, a gamer, who was not from the medical profession, was able to solve the puzzle and find a solution to the 15 year old study.

Gamification for the Recruitment process

Gamification could set your organisation apart in the eyes of the (available) talent pool, by making the recruitment process more thrilling and inventive. It may also prove to be a means of upping the quality of the applicants that apply for the opening in the first place. This can be done by embedding smart game mechanics to screen applicants' input, which will be in the form of measurable game progression. Many organisations are taking advantage of gamified means of spurring on job applicants. Take KPMG UK who wanted to stand out from the crowd when offering summer internships to students'. A platform called 'Race the World in 80 Days' was created to engage players to compete and circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon in the quickest time, having successfully completing 10 challenges along the way. The best performer (which was reflected by score) was awarded the internship, along with a thousand pound travel voucher.

There are countless ways to take advantage of the digital sector's reach, but one gamified recruitment idea, that is thought to be one of the smartest means of innovatively engaging an audience, was with Google back in 2004. Google booked a billboard out in Silicon Valley. The billboard was blank, with no mention of the Google brand, instead there was the following message: {first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com. This is not an easy answer to decipher, but it tapped into the psychological mind of engineers and mathematicians and subconsciously challenged potential candidates to rise to the challenge. Upon successfully solving the puzzle and following through to the URL page, they were then faced with yet another mathematical conundrum. If the candidate cracked the code once more, they were directed to Google Labs webpage and were presented with the following message "one thing we learned while building Google is that it's easier to find what you're looking for, if it comes looking for you. What we're looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are." Google was successfully able to source a pool of clearly competent candidates by differentiating itself from the standard recruitment processes and by subconsciously motivating its target audience to complete the challenge. Google also saved on the commissions that would otherwise have been passed on to recruitment agencies. (The answer is 7427466391.com, in case you were wondering!).

Gamifying the Recruitment and Learning and Development departments is becoming increasingly more enterprise class. It is changing the nature of performance management – it changes how we think about managing people and how we think about our own performance.

Gamification for Acquisition purposes

Competition in the remote gaming industry is rife. Winning over your audiences' attention is crucial to securing your acquisition strategy. Your brand image is key to cutting through the noise; make it fun and gamify it. Be social to the core and incorporate surprise and delight throughout. If you have a story, then tell it! These are brand traits that will help captivate your market.

Take Casumo's mission to eradicate boredom where they humanised their objectives in the marketplace to the extent that gamblers and non-gamblers alike are able to relate to the cause. As a result, the social aspect kicked in and people began to talk about the brand, thus giving a sense of purpose. '48% of Finnish people think that aquarium fish are the most boring pets – let's change that' was another campaign that took place over a one day live event, where Casumo put a charismatic goldfish into an aquarium and gave Finland the opportunity to give him a voice and conscience. People from all over the country could type in what they wanted the goldfish to say or think over social media, by sending through scripts directly to the aquarium and using the hashtag #tuhoatylsyys. Casumo experienced a 220% increase in customer acquisition - keeping content fresh is the means to monetising loyalty.

Conclusion

The gambling sector is the ideal test bed to capitalise on gamification's potential. By bringing in the fun and social aspects of games and branding into gambling, then that may also help realign stances towards the social gaming aspect, which has yet to prove to be a long-term area of interest for the sector.

While gamification may seem edgy or complex today, no doubt there are already pockets of expertise inside your organisation that are using or thinking about using gamification. What they need in order to drive the company to the next level is a clear strategy that makes engagement a priority. By seeing the potential of gamification today, your vision will help your organisation adapt to a future in which fun and engagement are no longer considered a competitive advantage, but as an effective standard. From automobiles, to finance, entertainment to education, the number of examples of industries in which a tectonic shift is underway – driven by social, mobile, and game like technologies – is immense.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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