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The Science Behind Gamification and Why it Works

Gamification is a subject you have probably heard a lot about, but there is little information out there that can guide us to *why* it works. Understanding this can help us uncover motivational methods that may already exist within your business.

Worth an estimated $2.3 trillion, the global entertainment and media market is big business. While this comprises of television, radio and film, it also includes video games. Currently, global revenue of this booming industry is $101.62 billion, as average consumer spending comes in at just over $90 each year. But it isn’t just the financial side of things that raises eyebrows...

The average gamer is said to spend eight hours a week playing their favoured console or device. Add into the bargain that 67 per cent of US households play video games and it is clear to see that we have a bit of an obsession. But the enjoyment and pleasure we get from gaming is being used for other purposes aside from entertainment. 

Research has found that adopting game thinking and mechanics in non-game contexts can help improve engagement levels, assist in completing certain tasks, improve individual learning and encourage personal development. This is known as gamification.


A closer look at gamification

By providing rewards or injecting some fun into every chores and routine tasks, the individual is more likely to get it done in a quick, efficient and successful way. It is a common tactic used by parents, as challenging your kids to clean their room within five minutes will probably have the desired affect. 

But now gamification is evident wherever you look, especially on smartphones and tablets. Everything from keeping fit to managing your money can be a fun and fulfilling experience, which also achieves its primary objective. While there is a clear incentive or reward, our natural human instinct of competition and ambition also kicks in. Gamification proposes a challenge, helps you overcome it and provides gratification at the end.


The science behind gamification

Gamification is all about motivation, the desire and willingness to do something. This feeling of drive and ambition is fuelled by dopamine, the chemical signal that gets passed from one neuron in your brain to another. Essentially, your body releases dopamine when you experience something pleasurable or satisfying. While these can be all sorts of things, receiving a reward is one of the biggest.  

But even before you’ve been recompensed for doing something, your brain may give you a chemical hit. This is because dopamine neurons try to predict the rush you’ll receive from your actions. Over time, they’ll learn when something satisfying is on its way and release good vibes before hand. But this also means that when you receive unexpected gratification, even more dopamine will be released. 

Therefore, the more you do (such as competing a task or chore), the more you receive (lashings of dopamine), and the easier it is to stay motivated. Gamification attempts to replicate this model.


Why gamification works

At the heart of gamification is motivation, but where does our enthusiasm specifically come from? There are several theories relating to this subject, but Scientific American believes there are three critical elements that sustain motivation.

Autonomy - If you’re in charge of your own destiny, you are more motivated to succeed. Being in charge means you’ll work harder and stick to your objectives for a longer periods of time. Experiments indicate that students given the opportunity and authority to select a course on their own persisted longer in problem solving activities.

Value - Assigning value to the activity and having an active interest in the subject also increases motivation levels. Research has found a positive correlation between valuing a subject in school and a student’s willingness to investigate a question. If you care, you’ll keep going and work harder until the task is complete. 

Competence - If an individual develops a proficiency or skill for something, they’re more likely to continue doing it. Again, studies have proven this, showing a strong link between a student’s sense of prowess and his or her desire to pursue certain activities. What’s more, those who credit innate talents rather than hard work tend to give up more easily.

Gamification takes advantage of our extrinsic (factors like money or grades) and intrinsic (personal gain or enjoyment) motivation to enhance daily activities or specific tasks. Therefore, gamification works best if both of these motivational factors are catered for. Even though you want to feel good about yourself, some form of reward or prize is also required.


Wranx gamification

Wranx has taken the science and theory behind gamification and applied it to comprehensive training solutions. We know that a sense of accomplishment coupled with receiving rewards and the thrill of competing against others can enhance any organisation’s training programs. 

With our gamification model, over 300 different achievements can be won by demonstrating knowledge about subjects relating to your business, industry or job requirements. After taking part in these games, employees can see what position they’ve achieved on a leader board comprising of fellow colleagues’ performances. This promotes competition and encourages your workforce to try harder.

Another way Wranx tries to support employees is by letting them know what behaviours are required to win more prestigious awards. This might sound a bit frivolous, but as gamification has previously proven, receiving rewards or honours is of great benefit to those wanting to develop and do better. As an employer, you can also set time limits on certain awards to encourage greater focus on the topic in question and help your staff complete a training program promptly. 

Coupled with our accelerated learning system, deep-dive reporting, cloud hosted solution and multi-device support, gamification enables staff to learn new skills and expertise in an enjoyable, effective and flexible way.