Gamification and motivation

[Republished blog assignment for my CMNS 380 class from Winter, 2012]

Gamification and Motivation

By: Trevor Kavanaugh

The emerging workforce is a gaming workforce. Gaming now surpasses the movie industry for popularity and revenue. People get bored and uninterested in the workplace, but can game for hours on end. Companies are starting to develop systems in the workplace with elements of game thinking and game mechanics. This process is called Gamification. Growing up, games were usually based on simple hand-eye coordination and timing. Pac-man, Asteroids, Super Mario Bros… But the model of gaming has changed and it is starting to be reflected in the workplace. Modern games are socially connected, creatively open, and brimming with multitasking.

An excellent example of Gamification is a program called RedCritter Tracker. This free project management application combines rewards and social connectivity. After a project leader assigns tasks, RedCritter helps motivate staff by rewarding them with badges and points upon completion. There are even badges that can be stolen back and forth between employees in the spirit of jolly competition. For example, a ‘marathon’ badge could be offered to the employee who logged the most hours writing code in the last week. If another employee surpasses the hours, they steal the badge. There are even Facebook-like RedCritter Tracker profile pages for each employee that lets them compare stats, badges, and stories with their colleagues. This also allows them to communicate about their tasks and brings a visual element to the communication.

The company can choose to offer points for each task or badge. The employee can then spend the points on real-life prizes. These tangible rewards paired with the satisfaction of badges and checking tasks off as completed (and sharing it on your RedCritter wall) motivates workers.

The motivation to persevere [in games] is the brain seeking another surge of dopamine – the fuel of intrinsic reinforcement.” (Judy Willis, MD)

Gaming is addictive. Bringing this system of achievement and sharing that achievement with your friends/coworkers can motivate employees and boost productivity in a company. But there are also some down sides to this system:

  1. The points given must match the task size. Otherwise, employees might complain about unfair point distribution. This would be highly dispiriting for staff.
  2. The project leader can observe employees’ work and progress more closely. This may be good for the employer, but it may lead to more pressure and stress for the employee.

For employers, using this method of game thinking and game mechanics can motivate and engage their employees. Systems like this reflect a changing workplace model as we engage an emerging gaming workforce.

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