Games and gamification are hot topics and the buzzwords of the moment. Gamification is defined,  in the Gamification by Design by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham, as:

The use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems.
This framework for understanding gamification is both powerful and flexible: it can readily be applied to any problem in need of a solution.

Examples of game mechanics are the use of points, badges, levels, challenges and rewards. The idea is to apply concepts already widely used in games into websites and applications to drive loyalty and engagement.

A recent article (May 4 2011)  in the WSJ titles Gamification: Hype or Game-Changer?:

Gamification is already shaping up to be one of the buzzwords of 2011. Educators, brands, charities and government are all looking at how to use gamification to improve engagement, make money or change behaviors.

We are in the grip of gamification-mania. Rick Gibson of Games Investor Consulting says “Some analysts estimate that 50% of companies will have ‘gamified’ by 2015. That’s 13.5 million businesses in the U.S. alone. That seems pretty ambitious to me.

Gamification is not a panacea. Many of the things that proponents claim gamification can do can be done by normal business processes: redesign your website, improve your product, train your customer service better. But if you are looking for ways to encourage behaviors amongst your customers, it has a place in the marketer’s arsenal.

A recent book on this topic is Reality is Broken: Why Games make us better and how they can change the world by Jane McGonigal. From her intro in the website:

Reality is Broken explains the science behind why games are good for us–why they make us happier, more creative, more resilient, and better able to lead others in world-changing efforts.

One authority in games and gamification is Jesse Schell, the author of The Art of Game Design. Bruce Sterling reviewed the book in Wired. I talked of Jesse Schell in this blog one year ago in the post  Design Outside the Box. He gave a very good presentation on Gamification and it is worth sharing it again.

And now, back to finish reading the books

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