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American Business Embraces 'Gamification' 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the level-up-your-reward-points dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "JP Mangalindan writes that for years psychologists have studied what makes video games so engrossing — why do players spend hours accruing virtual points working towards intangible rewards and what characteristics make some games more addictive than others? Now, companies are realizing that 'gamification' — using the same mechanics that hook gamers — is an effective way to generate business. For example, when Nike released Nike + in 2008, it 'gamified' exercise. 'Place the pedometer in a pair of (Nike) sneaks and it monitors distance, pace and calories burned, transmitting that data to the user's iPod. The Nike software loaded on the iPod will then "reward" users if they reach a milestone,' writes Mangalindan. 'If a runner beats his 5-mile distance record, an audio clip from Tour de France cycling champ Lance Armstrong congratulates him.' In addition, users can upload their information, discuss achievements online with other users, and challenge them to distance or speed competitions. The result: to date, Nike has moved well over 1.3 million Nike + units."
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American Business Embraces 'Gamification'

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  • Achievements... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec (258881)

    Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?

    "Congratulations! You survived a bird looking at you! Achievement unlocked, 10 points!"

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not a matter of needing the pat on the back, it's a matter of the pat on the back being better than not getting the pat on the back.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jedi Alec (258881)

        While I agree that a pat on the back can be good, doesn't getting one every 5 minutes for even the most mundane of tasks diminish the praise received for something that is actually worthy of being called an accomplishment?

        In a typical game these days you earn about a quarter of the achievements available for getting through the tutorial without uninstalling.

        • Re:Achievements... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:37PM (#33493584) Homepage Journal

          Considering how lame some games are, that IS a major achievement.

          There exists tons of research on reward systems, how large they should be, how often they should be doled out, etc. Whether psychology or HR, the info is out there. Yours is a valid concern, but it is a question that has been answered in various contexts already.

        • Not really. Sure there are a lot of super easy achievements in games, such as playing through the basic story. While you can get them, they are really only designed to create encouragement to get through. Some achievements are supposed to have low value in order to elevate the value of those that are more difficult and not something you get just through a basic playthrough. I have somewhere near 1500 hours in Team Fortress 2, and I am yet to get all the achievements. (In my defense, I don't farm achievement

      • It's not a matter of needing the pat on the back, it's a matter of the pat on the back being better than not getting the pat on the back.

        The pat on the back, the annoying chime, the shitty popup, the wasted development time, the shitty way people play online in an attempt to farm them, the slow loading they cause when I want to send a message to someone, etc. are all DETRIMENTAL to the game.

        Go play TF2 or L4D/L4D2 after a major update.
        Or go play the PS3 ever.

        At least on ecksbawks you can turn the notifications off.

    • by Xtifr (1323) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:57PM (#33492942) Homepage

      You're probably not the only one on Slashdot. To the semi-mythical average Joe, those achievements probably seem like some sort of triumph over the incomprehensible computing device, while a slashdotter is more likely to recognize it as merely a subroutine in the code triggered by some arbitrary numbers.

      I wonder if adding "achievements" to other types of software might be useful, though, to help counter computerphobia. "Congrats, you have typed 50,000 words in your Word Processor." "Achievement: 20 different programs executed." "Opaquemastery: you have successfully shoved more than fifty elements into a single PowerPoint slide!" :)

        • by Shikaku (1129753)

          =(

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Who says OSS doesn't innovate?

        • by MrNemesis (587188)

          At first I thought these must be april fool's pranks, but apparently not; I do find the entire concept ridiculous though. Getting an award in a game is generally a fun, if usually completely ephemeral, thing to do... but installing a buttload of apps or performing better tasks? IMHO resources would be better spent on either a) improving the apps themselves or b) writing more/better documentation (even if it's in the form of videos along the lines of "Look at some of the cool things you can do with X to impr

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by davester666 (731373)

        You won't feel more motivated if you fail to come within 10% of your best time, and then John McEnroe spends five minutes cursing you and your entire lineage out.

      • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:36PM (#33493222) Homepage Journal
        "Congrats, you have typed 50,000 words in your Word Processor." "Achievement: 20 different programs executed."

        Dude, I think you have just found a new use for Clippy! Make your document concise, grammatically correct and well-written and clippy dies a very violent death, otherwise he won't go away. If that isn't motivation to write well I don't know what is.
        • Dude, I think you have just found a new use for Clippy! Make your document concise, grammatically correct and well-written and clippy dies a very violent death, otherwise he won't go away. If that isn't motivation to write well I don't know what is.

          If you fall behind or fail you get a canned upbraiding from Jar-Jar Binks...
          Mesa sooo disappointed in yousa performance! Yousa not living up to expectations!"
          Of course, this could just lead to damaged speakers or eardrums (depending on which is easiest to access).

      • by pitchpipe (708843)
        Buzzword Bingo:

        Place the [Dynamic] in a pair of [enterprise, leading-edge] sneaks and it monitors [immersion], [leverage] and [proactive synergy], transmitting that [paradigm] to the user's [framework]. The Nike [Next Generation] loaded on the [Web 2.0] will then "[leverage]" users if they reach a [paradigm shift],' writes Mangalindan. 'If a runner [synthesizes] his [long tail], a [tipping point] from Tour de France [viral] champ Lance [Result-driven] Armstrong [integrates] him.' In addition, [global e-busi

      • It's all about the incentives. If you want someone to work their ass off, give them the right incentive. It's much more effective than fear of punishment in producing effort. And just about everyone responds to some kind of incentive, hopeless slackers aside. You just have to find out what it is.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Napoleon was the man who said "a soldier will fight long and hard for a coloured bit of ribbon."

        as small as it may be, we like to feel we have accomplished something.

      • by smurfsurf (892933)

        There is Ribbon Hero for MS Office that uses similar mechanics: http://www.officelabs.com/ribbonhero [officelabs.com]

      • ... I'm not sure if loading many elements in a single Powerpoint slide is achievement worthy...

        Acheivement Unlocked: Used Times New Roman font... again!
    • by izomiac (815208)
      I think that's more related to achievements being automatically posted to facebook or what not which advertises the game. From there, it artificially extends gameplay by nagging at your sense of completion. I know before I could finish a game once and be satisfied, but now that they remind me about all the stuff I didn't do, that sense of satisfaction is diminished. OTOH, if I replay a couple times for the achievements I feel like I've wasted my time... It's an annoying Catch-22.
      • Eh, I play WoW, and the only achievements I worried about or even tried to get is 100k PvP kills and exalted with all three BG factions (WSG,AV,AB) and not for the achievements, but for the titles and mounts. Rest of them are silly check marks that mean nothing to me.
        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Right, and you are every person who plays WoW. Your anecdote doesn't interest us, and your sample size of one does not interest businesses.

          • Re:Achievements... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by zippthorne (748122) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:59PM (#33494106) Journal

            Actually, he might be representative of "every person who plays wow." Right down to the strained justification of the particular achievement he works toward and disparagement of the other achievements and by extension the character of the players seeking them.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by stonewallred (1465497)
              Point out strained justification or where I disparaged other players. Fucktard. Believe I said the rest are silly check marks that mean nothing to me. Note the phrase "to me"? Goddamn fuckheaded idiot who can't read. What the hell are you doing on slashdot when you are lacking even basic English reading and comprehension skills? Go DIAF!
              • by gmhowell (26755)

                Judging by your marvelous communication skills, I'm going to say WoW to you consists of comparing gearscore in trade.

          • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

            by stonewallred (1465497)
            and you are every d-bag on /. So other than a low UID, just what do you bring to the table that is unique? And hate to break the news, but despite what your mom said, your retardedness is just like all the other helmet wearing defectives.
            • by dcw3 (649211)

              Wish I had mod points. You just achieved two sequential asshat posts, congratulations!

            • by gmhowell (26755)

              I bring nothing to the table. But I also don't carry the hubris to think that my opinion matters a hill of beans to Blizzard, unlike yourself.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?"

      You might be, but either way there is sweet, sweet money to be made in backpatting.

    • by MrCrassic (994046)
      Well, the example given is a bad one for starters. It's pretty much universally accepted that devices such as HRM's (heart rate monitors) and speedometers help improve and centralize training achievements. Nike+ made it really easy for runners to do that without extra equipment, provided that they had an iPod with a capable receiver. I wouldn't think that runners would be looking forward to fake Lance congratulating them as much as shaving off 2 minutes from a 10K and knowing how they achieved that quantita
      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        Precisely.

        I have the Nike+ and Lance's little words of encouragement are completely meaningless to me. Hell since it occurs at the end of the run, I've usually already taken the earphones out so I don't even hear it.

        Rather for me the Nike+ system was just an easier way of tracking when and how far I ran. I already carried my MP3 player while running anyway, and the Nike receiver stays in the shoe ... so it was a completely effortless way to do that. Rewards or acheivements etc. had nothing to do with it.

        Not

    • Re:Achievements... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by clifyt (11768) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [rettamkinos]> on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:15PM (#33493094) Homepage

      "Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?"

      No, while the vast majority of individuals out there enjoy praise as a motivator, a subset enjoy snark and haughty comments to provide their motivation.

      Then again, some us prefer both.

      • by pookemon (909195)
        While others enjoy alligator clips and car batteries.

        That might be frowned upon in the workplace though.
      • by hal2814 (725639)

        "Then again, some us prefer both."

        Well, then congratulations... jackass!

    • Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?

      "Congratulations! You survived a bird looking at you! Achievement unlocked, 10 points!"

      No. For people like you there are highly profitable products that allow you to pat yourself on the back.

    • Congrats.. You got uprated.... (dun dun DUN)

    • by tisepti (1488837)

      How about +1 insightful?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?

      Okay, what if you were patronized with a hand job or a blow job every 5 minutes for something insignificant. Would you complain then?

    • Re:Achievements... (Score:5, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday September 06, 2010 @11:07PM (#33494408) Journal

      Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?

      "Congratulations! You survived a bird looking at you! Achievement unlocked, 10 points!"

      If you truly feel this way, there's probably something wrong with you. If you just don't feel this way about, say, Farmville, but do feel it about other things (and probably don't realize that you do) then you're merely normal and not paying attention.

      "Gamification" is a fuzzy description of operant conditioning [wikipedia.org]. Anything with a bit of intelligence (dogs, parrots, maybe even sheep, and certainly humans) are wired to get a little jolt of pleasure after successfully negotiating a crisis situation. It's how we learn. What games do is short-circuit this by providing lots and lots of crisis situations, and providing the player with ways to get through them and win, and get that little burst of success-feeling. Some people are seriously susceptible to this kind of shenanigans and spend all their time enjoying their imagined success at Farmville. Others do the same thing climbing the corporate ladder and running companies. In that case, of course, it's not imagined success, it's the intended result of how we're wired, operating in a complex social environment. In any case, it's an essential system for learning in humans, and while it sucks that people are getting really good at twisting it to manipulate other people, it's still vitally important and ubiquitous.

    • by limber (545551)

      "Congratulations! You survived a bird looking at you! Achievement unlocked, 10 points!"

      Congratulations! I see your slashdot achievements are:

              * Got a Score:5 Comment
              * Days Read in a Row
              * Days Metamoderated in a Row

      +1 Flamebait!

    • This reminds me of a manager at one of the places that I once worked. He wasn't the best manager. One day he started sending out praise for accomplishments, something he had never done before. This was somewhat surprising and, we thought, somewhat nice of him. That was until we noticed that he was sending out praise for every little thing, no matter what it was or how un-important. Then it meant nothing, just more spam in the inbox. Something to make it look, to his boss, like he actually cared. Gami

    • the numbers in your bank account . Points for being a good boy .

      • I have lots of many! What a good boy am I!

        - Black hat

        Jajaja you are small fries to me, ese!

        - Drug cartel boss

        What's that? I can't hear you from my money castle on top of my money mountain on my private money island. Hold on while I sail over there on my yacht...which is also made of money. BTW you guys better have my cocaine and ultra-secure computers ready when I get over there.

        - Former US bank executive

    • Re:Achievements... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dintech (998802) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:51AM (#33497034)

      Am I only the one who doesn't need a pat on the back every 5 minutes in order to enjoy something or derive satisfaction from it?

      Be honest, you've been checking back every five minutes to see if your post is +5 Insightful yet...

    • That post deserves a pat on the back.

  • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:49PM (#33492880)

    then they can run around stealing gold instead of whatever it is they do now to fleece the public

    • by PPH (736903)
      ... and the failures won't get a government bailout. They'll get eaten by a grue.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      then they can run around stealing gold instead of whatever it is they do now to fleece the public

      In the same context, what about: "You died! Game over! Play again?"?

      • by Noughmad (1044096)

        then they can run around stealing gold instead of whatever it is they do now to fleece the public

        In the same context, what about: "You died! Game over! Play again?"?

        That's pretty much how it is now, isn't it? With the bail-out and all?

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      then they can run around stealing gold instead of whatever it is they do now to fleece the public

      They hate gold, it can't be magically multiplied on a computer*.

      * excepting people who think it's a good idea to buy unaudited paper gold, sigh.

  • Pedometer? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like something out of /b/
    I don't want to know what Pedobear uses it for.
  • by nysus (162232)

    What's legs got to do with?

  • My best guess as to 'why it works' is that it makes people feel good about themselves. If people can't feel good about themselves in the real world why wouldn't they escape to some other world where they can feel good? MMOs provide this for some people. Why can't other things give people this sensation regardless of how mundane they are?

    Say what you want about (ab)using this for commercial gain, but at least Nike has found a way where this can have a positive benefit on someone's real world existence. If
    • Actually, why it works is there's two types of motivation:

      1) Intrinsic, where you feel good because you did something, and take pride in the accomplishment.

      2) Extrinsic, where someone else has placed value on the thing you did, and you take away that value, rather than the simple act of accomplishment.

      Neither is inherently better than the other, and usually a combination of both is why people end up doing things. A paycheque is an example of extrinsic motivation, for instance.

      • There is intrinsic motivation in doing a job well, along with getting the paycheck. I'd dare say a person who works a job for just a paycheck (unless it is a very large paycheck) without any other reward, might be happier with a different job.
  • I personally do not need that. My tennis shoes do communicate with me, through a stench interface. When they smell like something that would knock out a hard-boiled coroner, I know that they want to be placed out in the sun.

    Actually, the whole thing reminds me of ELIZA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELIZA [wikipedia.org] , a program written to mimic a psychotherapist. It just really picked up some keywords that the user typed in, and formulated something to spit back at the user. However, some folks started thinking that

    • by hedwards (940851)
      That's probably just an indication of how pointless Psychology has been up to this point. It's getting better, but that whole how does that make you feel bullshit is still far too common. Granted it's not easy to do proper controlled experiments, but at least doing some experimenting was a leap forward.
    • I don't see the connection, nor the worry. Nike+ biggest boon for an athlete is that it made tracking your own performance even easier. You now have an automatic record of how fast/long/hard each run was. You can get on the run (ha!) updates to your progress (it'll read you how far you've run so far), which is always useful. It's my understanding that humans typically enjoy forming 'personal' relationships with 'their' gadgets. Your iPhone is the same as any iPhone, and even if you loaded the exact same dat
    • I'd say the real question is, if the program is indistinguishable from a "real" psychotherapist, what does that say about real psychotherapist?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by schnell (163007)

      I know the comment was intended to be funny, but I figured I'd respond anyway as a gamer - and Nike+ user - who can hopefully help others understand the value proposition.

      I was a runner in high school who picked it up again about five years ago as a way to stay fit. I got the Nike+ iPod kit two years ago, and it made a significant difference in my enjoyment of running. It provided essential, purely functional benefits (ability to track my running distance, and play my preferred music or podcasts as I ran).

      • I was surprised not to see more comments like this, as I've had a similar experience myself. I'm not a runner (exercise-induced asthma can be a pain in the ass; I can walk or hike at a decent speed nearly indefinitely, but once I start jogging/running for a minute or two and pass a certain threshold, my lungs don't want to hear about it anymore), so I don't use Nike+, but I've tracked stuff like that manually with other types of exercise. I don't like it quite as much as having another person to work with
  • Probably better for the employee because US Dollars are so worthless these days anyways.

  • What you need to sell is to create an emotional connection between the product and the consumer. Games and rewards are one way to do that. Exploration and discovery also engage people, as do video content (ie traditional commercials), contests, surveys, build your own tools, etc. Each of these methods is a way to get the user to self identify with the product or the community it is perceived to be used by. Once someone has said to themselves, this product is something I value - even if the value was created

  • Ribbon Hero (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:15PM (#33493428) Homepage

    A few years ago, Microsoft Research Labs created a "game" add-on for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that turned training and using the software features into a bit of a game.

    Basically, in challenge mode it gave you some task to perform with an example (such as "Turn on columns and add a vertical line"). When you got it right, you got points.

    And in regular mode, the more features of the app you used, the more extra points you got.

    A few other twists let you get points for repeating tasks a few times, doing them quickly, using shortcut keys, etc.

    And to wrap up it all up, you could post your scores to Facebook automatically and "compete" with your friends.

    Everyone I've shown it to really likes it, and it's totally unobtrusive during your normal work unless you're in Challenge Mode.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      it's totally unobtrusive during your normal work unless you're in Challenge Mode.

      Why? Does the challenge mode enables Clippy?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      And in regular mode, the more features of the app you used, the more extra points you got.

      So THAT explains the PowerPoint hellholes that are corporate meetings. They're going for the high score!

      Do sound effects and animations award additional points?

  • i thought they'd were gamifying for their employees. earn achievements to boost your salary, that kind of thing. they should do that.
  • Who'd have thought that taking a leisure product and making it into a game would take off?! What will they think of next? Special shoes for recreational activities like basketball and running? I'm truly in awe of Nike's prowess!

    This 'gamification' is shiny and new like monetization, as if the concept of making money only occurred to some tween in the mid noughties.

    "Your honour, my milk stool is complete"

  • ...like nation vs nation games http://www.trojangames.co.uk/ [trojangames.co.uk]
  • Yep push the model of Nike+ and them trying to sue every manufacturer of shoelace pouches designed to hold the sensor in a effort to force buyers in to buying only Nike+ approved shoes. Guess that is like the lock down on modding of games on the PC lately, traveled over from the console and it's mostly (in the stock form) locked down platform?
  • In Capitalist America, buisness games you!
    • by tunapez (1161697)

      In Capitalist America, business games you!

      Gold Star for Auto Lykos!(sorry, no mod points today)
      I guess if a meme is repeated enough times it will eventually intersect reality.

  • Oh, I know, lets label it addictive so we can treat them for a disorder ...

  • It's somewhat different then what the article is talking about, but I am reminded of it. In that Facebook game [facebook.com] you gets points which can be used to lower the price of a real item by 1 cent which one has the option of buying, of course. All players of the game can lower the item's cost and it can go down a fair amount in some cases (1 dollar for a 10 dollar gift card for example).

    I don't really have a point with this, I just find the strange combination of advertising plus discounting amusing, and somewha
  • Not to make psychological (or ludological) research sound trite, but it's not too terribly complicated...
    What's the appeal of a book? Or the appeal of a movie? Now add interaction.
    You get to decide what happens to the character between the start and the finish.

    Video games offer the potential to recreate facets of the human condition in a more engrossing way than almost any other form of entertainment.
    We all start and finish the same way (birth and death), the interesting part is what happens along the way

    • by tomhath (637240)
      This "gamification" is really about competition. People will work harder if they're challenged to meet a goal, and they respond to the cheers of an admiring crowd, even if the crowd is virtual...
  • Next gen of horse and carrot.
  • it seems difficult to conclude otherwise...love it or hate it, "gamification" is becoming "the way." yes, of course game mechanics tap into basic human psychology and have been used for years to get people to buy stuff and perhaps to do more than they would have done without the "game." but as the article demonstrates, the money-makers are catching on to ways to make it even more prevalent and more widely applicable. there is another ton of evidence just a few Google searches away.... not just the mone

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