Why We Hate The Word “Gamification”

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Use the word gamification around our offices and you’re nearly guaranteed to hear a sigh. While in reality, gamification, as it was intended, creates the foundation of a lot of the work Dragon Army produces.

In order to understand the connection, animosity and our belief in what works, you have to first understand the Dragon Army story.

Dragon Army started in 2013 as a mobile game studio. Our team saw the power in a marketplace expected to grow to $30.3 billion dollars in 2015: mobile gaming (source). We focused exclusively on designing, building and publishing games direct to consumers.

It didn’t take long for our inner marketers to see what others had been also taking note of for years: there’s power in why people love games. They’re fun, they’re addictive and they create loyal fans.

Where gamification in the mid 2000s went awry was in thinking that because people were enticed by points, leaderboards or badges in games, we could apply those same tactics to campaigns and expect people to flock to an experience. We all know now that those experiences ended in misguided, and often intrusive, campaigns, ultimately leaving consumers underwhelmed.

Today, Dragon Army is one part mobile game studio and one part mobile agency. Having an in-house team of game designers, artists and strategists has allowed us to revisit the foundation of gamification and uncover opportunities where its potential becomes a reality.

Working together with our studio, we have developed, and trademarked, a process called Applied Game Theory™. What this has allowed us to do is to uncover the elements that make games successful beyond their isolated mechanics.

Applied Game Theory™ exists on the understanding that there are three parts to making any mobile experience rewarding:

  1. Understanding player personas
  2. Balancing game mechanics
  3. Conducting behavioral & path analysis

As we think about the future of gamification, we urge our clients, and challenge ourselves, to think beyond the execution. Applied Game Theory™ allows us to dig deeper into architecting game inspired experiences to create lasting behavior and a future where the practice of Applied Game Theory™ doesn’t include heavy sighs.