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The return of gamification

24 januari 2020 by Maarten

Six years ago I boarded a train heading for Karlsruhe (Germany) for the delivery of my first keynote speech on a gamification conference.

I was exited! Excited about gamification. Excited about the fact that my employer (a large Dutch bank) was so interested in this ‘hype’ that I had the freedom to explore its potential. And excited that I was about to deliver my view on gamification ‘to the world’.

The speech went well and before I knew I was flying around the world to talk about gamification in a banking context on various conferences. Gamification was hyped in its optima forma. It was considered the Holy Grail for a great many of problems: boring processes, demotivated employees, disloyal clients, engagement problems, complex scientific experiments, etc.

But the actual scientific proof of its power, and original and creative use cases were lacking behind. Instead of designs which were based on players motivation we were showered with points, badges and leader boards on every product, service or process in the hope to make it more engaging. The fact that that very same product, service or process on itself was hardly valuable at all was not recognized in the hope that gamification did its trick.

And thus, like any hype, gamification seemed to fade away. Hope faded away and the world moved on to the next hype. This is a natural movement for any hype and gamification moved on to its next stage on the cycle: the through of disillusionment (see picture, and for a quick introduction in the hype cycle read this).

And me? I also moved on. I realized that I spent more time talking about gaming and gamification than actually designing. So I decided to quit my job at the bank and become a full time game designer at Frisse Blikken / Fresh Forces (as I am today) to really get to the depth of game and gamification design.

And here we are, four years later and something beautiful is happening. I see more and more gamification examples, which show both proper design and results. Designs that are based on player motivations and context instead of just fancy game elements. I have the feeling that gamification as a design perspective is on its ‘slope of enlightenment’ (picture) and heading to productivity.

Maybe not as fancy, colorful and with the epic grandeur as we thought six years ago, but in a subtler though no less effective way, gamification is here to stay! And I am happy to show you its place in the world! Follow my blog in which I will share my views and experiences, my successes and failures. And of course I will talk about serious gaming as well. All in a playful matter!

Game on!