According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 320 million residents in the U.S. Of those, approximately 183 million are active gamers (source: Gartner) – that's nearly sixty percent of the population. Further, Nielsen's Digital Consumer Report reports that Americans own four digital devices on average and the typical U.S. consumer spends sixty hours a week consuming content across devices (TVs, computers, phones, tablets, etc.) Needless to say, we are plugged-in in a big way. No wonder there is a growing problem engaging each other.
There are mixed emotions about gaming and when it comes to children, experts advise to approach with caution. On the one hand, as an art form and communication tool, it is an incredible display of moving images that tells a captivating story and enthralls the user into a seductive realm, making reality an indiscernible nuisance at best. It engages, “teaches” (truth or fiction), entertains and transforms users. It is a formidable medium, one that has permeated our culture and will only captivate more as it forges ahead into uncharted territories.
On the other hand, some groups maintain that excessive gaming leads to adverse effects. Recently, a 19-year-old Taiwanese teen died in an Internet café after playing Diablo 3 nonstop for 40 hours, eating no food and consuming only water. There are reports of neglect, truancy, violence and even suicide among gamers or among family members who were in the care of gamers. In all cases, it is alleged that excessive, perhaps compulsive, gaming led to incredible losses. Seems to me that it's the addiction and not the activity in and of itself that is to blame.
According to Jane McGonigal, author, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by age 21, the average person has spent about 10,000 hours on gaming. McGonigal adds that this is “24 hours less than the classroom hours spent attending both middle school and high school” if he/she has perfect attendance. Like it or not, these young people are entering the workforce. Their expectations are unlike any generation that has come before them in terms of using technology in the workplace. Businesses are searching for ways to engage Millennials, but they need to step up their game because the window of opportunity is shrinking in the face of the looming Baby Boomer exodus.
One of our largest clients, with hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide, has expressed concern about filling various managerial positions over the next decade, as more Boomers will be leaving their employ than the availability of younger generations entering the workforce. In addition, they are concerned about how to engage their employees, as the demographics will be more diversified than ever before. Engagement will be a key factor for creating an environment where mindful awareness can flourish and peak performance can endure.
Gamification offers great possibilities for these business challenges: engagement, behavior enhancement, improved collaboration, accelerated learning, participation and loyalty. Its adoption is becoming more mainstream and it is being factored into annual enterprise budgets in areas like marketing/sales, training, and communications. According to M2 Research, the overall market for gamification tools, services, and applications is projected to be $5.5 billion by 2018. Gamification programs will change the way we conduct business. Gamified activities will become the norm in the business world moving from customer-centric loyalty programs to in-house, inter-personal, team-based motivational tools designed to engage all employees to reach desired performance goals. And, it will be fun because it will have to be.
But building this industry will be challenging. Early gamification programs will fail until the recipe is correct. According to the Gartner Group, “80 percent of current gamified enterprise applications will fail to meet their objectives, due largely to poor design.” It's new territory, but like any new venture, as failure happens, manifestations occur and technology and applications evolve, and therefore so does its effectiveness.
So, what is an ideal recipe for gamification success? First, you need a compelling story because without it no one will care about what you are trying to do – period. Tony Ventrice, an award-winning game designer, said recently in a Fast Company article, “Gamification is fundamentally about telling a story. If the material is compelling, you can craft a good story; if the material is boring, you can't.” Second, be clear about the business goals for both the company and the user. Equal weight needs to be given to company and individual goals. Third, clearly identify the value to the user. The user needs to connect with the gamified activity so the benefits are paramount. Lastly, consider the long-term engagement aspect of the gamified activity. If it doesn't have a long shelf life, it probably isn't worth the investment.
Gamification is not an add-on, but a mind-shift that must be incorporated into the company's culture in order to be a success.