Serious About Games

Gamification in serious games

If you’re in services, for most businesses that will be your clients, the key objective is not to educate or entertain, but to change behaviour. If you’re developing your own product, influencing how users react to and interact with your product is probably top of mind. Enter behavioural science.

In early 2019, Serious About Games held a workshop with game developers and design professionals on behavioural science: Organisations around the world are embracing the discipline, and games and gamification fit into the behavioural science toolbox. Sebastian Thompson of Gravity Ideas facilitated the session, which looked to help participants articulate the value proposition of gamification to their clients, using behavioural science tools and techniques.

Doing the groundwork

Sebastian supplied some feedback after the session:


 – “It was clear that many participants were not giving enough thought to whether the task they had been briefed to do, would solve the problem the client was trying to solve. They just assumed that the client had done that thinking already.


– I think it became clear to many of them that this was important, not only for the client but also for their long-term relationship with the client. 


Asking some basic questions early on in the briefing process can definitely help to trigger this kind of thinking. 


–  Getting people to understand that they needed to avoid choosing a tool as the first step of the process was critical. This will continue to be a challenge for people.”


A game, gamification… or a bit of both?


We explored various gamification frameworks from Fogg & Hreha’s Behaviour Grid on the behavioural science side to Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis radar chart on the game design side.

Sebastian developed some thoughts on how games and gamification interact, from his perspective:

“The difference between game design and gamification is an interesting one. My view after the session is that these two things are poles on a spectrum rather than distinct categories. 


Game Design (in my novice view) is where you intentionally set out to create and immersive and engaging experience. One that people want to engage with regardless of the real-world objective (it could be productive, it could not be). 


Gamification is where you take a pre-existing process and take learnings and insights from games to improve that experience. 


– The question of where you can use Game Design is complicated and difficult to answer. However, it is most likely to succeed in an environment where you are trying to create some form of lasting and sustained behaviour; where you are looking to hold a user’s attention for an extended period of time (relative to the context). 


– It seems that Gamification can be used in a far larger number of environments; including once-off behaviours or processes, and spaces where you might not want to create a sustained long-term engagement.” 


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