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Gamification: Are We Living in a Game?

People do not enjoy games only for entertainment these days, but they have also started to apply gaming principles into various areas such as enterprises, products, and lifestyles. In fact, a lot of social networking services (SNS) successfully utilize typical elements of the game to provide entertainment to users. Likes and retweets on Facebook and Twitter do not only work as a way of communication but also function as a game system to draw active participation from users. As this shows, gamification can increasingly be easily found in our daily lives. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will look at the concept and problems of gamification, as well as possible directions to overcome limitations.

What Is Gamification?

Concept of Gamification

Gamification is the compound of the words ‘game’ and ‘-fication’, which takes some game mechanics and design features of entertainment, competition, and rewards in non-game contexts such as the educational field, online communities, and marketing. People often implement gamification in other industries to engage players to focus on results and achieve certain goals. From an educational approach, gamification can inspire students in learning knowledge through activities like the OX quiz and Pictionary that give points to the one who gets the answer right. Similarly, companies utilize gamification to raise brand awareness, marketing products, and training interns, etc.

Key Features of Gamification: Interest and Rewards

The two most important features of gamification are interest and rewards. Challenges of the appropriate level of difficulty and competition among peers stimulate users to be interested and excited, so they can get more immersed in the content. For example, the best comment system, which publicly displays the ones that receive many likes, effectively utilizes the idea of competition and entertainment. To have the best comment among hundreds of thousands of comments, people will get motivated to participate more actively with a competitive spirit to get more likes.

Toss Lucky Quiz (toss.im)

Another significant element is to provide rewards to the ones who progress through a course or mark an achievement. These rewards allow users to maintain a sense of achievement and recognition among others, which become driving factors. Similarly, the mobile financial service platform of Korea, Toss, launched a lucky quiz that successfully implements the reward system. If one shares the lucky quiz, then the participants who get the right answer are rewarded with a certain amount of money. Since people can earn money by doing a simple quiz, a lot of users constantly participate and pay attention to lucky quizzes. Other than these examples, there are also mileage and points systems, coupons, and games in a donation drive.

Problems with Gamification

Limited Utilization in Certain Fields

Gamification cannot be successfully used in every area but is only effective in limited fields where some game principles can be applied. If areas do not match with gaming features, they are likely to fail. For example, in 2014, Daum Media operated the News King Challenge service which provided a 10-question quiz about the daily news. This service, however, ended after just seven months due to the lack of users. Since the nature of news is to transmit information, a quiz on news failed to be fun like games to draw interest and immersion among users. As it shows, gamification is limited to application in certain areas.

News King Challenge (mediatoday.co.kr)

Abuse of Rules

It is also possible to have unintended consequences: abusing rules. If users completely comprehend the system, there is a danger of cheating that only seeks out rewards without considering the essential goals and purposes. If cheaters are aware of the weak points of the regulations, then they might disregard the implicit rules and have bad manners towards others for their sake. Then, the system might lose its authenticity and fail to achieve what it is intended for. For instance, giving dislikes to other comments maliciously to make oneself become the best comment can be an abuse of the implicit rules. Although there are no rules directly about giving dislikes, everyone knows that it is unrighteous for a fair game. Due to these bad manners, the rewards head to others instead of truly interesting and valuable comments

Possible Directions to Overcome Limitations

Understanding the Needs of Users

Since gamification cannot be successful in certain fields, it is necessary to identify the needs of the targeted audience, and if the area is suitable to apply game design to become successful. Therefore, the first step that needs to be taken is to understand what users truly want by using some tools or simulations such as customer journey maps. Customer journey maps are representations of every possible experience that customers can have while using the content. Since the map allows people to be in customers’ shoes, it provides a much deeper understanding of what users want rather than just having a simple survey. Through this process, managers can also identify if the application area can match the gaming principles, thereby maximizing the effects of gamification.

Customer Journey Road (getthematic.com)

Regulations on Cheating

Resetting the point requirement of rewards can control cheaters. If the requirement was low or easy to be manipulated by users previously, then it can be prevented by changing the condition to have different criteria. For example, when there is a program that grants 10 mileage points to every comment, users can easily earn points by copying and pasting the meaningless words repeatedly. In this case, if the mileage is given to comments that got voted for by other users, then it can control abuses better than before. Furthermore, establishing a complaint system among users can be effective in dealing with cheaters. In response to the reported abuse, granting penalties such as suspending or not providing rewards can incapacitate the abuse. Many companies and organizations such as Naver have an internal reporting center or report system to prevent further irregularities.

In current society, many people might have experienced gamification in their daily lives without being aware of it. Despite some advantages and benefits of the system, there are some concerns that gamification is not always successful in every field. Therefore, people need to constantly work on looking for ways to complement and improve.

최정인  choiji1208@gmail.com

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