Gamification – Making Work a Game

Gamification: Turning regular activities at work into games.

Gamification stands in contrast to what people call serious games.

Serious games are activities or games that are outside of normal work. These games can help you with estimation (Planning Poker), road maps (Prune The Product Tree), and team dynamics (Speedboat). Serious games often incorporate crowdsourcing, sometimes to scale efforts that might otherwise be difficult for teams to do alone, and other times to elicit information that people might otherwise be unable or unwilling to provide.

Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality Is Brokenstarts with the following proposition about gamification:

  • Since the launch of World of Warcraft, players have clocked more than 50 billion hours of time playing this online game.
  • People play World of Warcraft because, for whatever reason, they find it rewarding, despite the lack of tangible, real-world benefits of playing it. (Unless, of course, you count the people working in the underground economy of “gold farming” for massively multiplayer online games.)
  • Therefore, if you could somehow recreate the experience of playing World of Warcraft at work, you’d increase their motivation on the job. In other words, if businesses could capture even a fraction of those 50 billion hours playing World of Warcraft, they’d be very happy with the increased productivity.

Bottom line? Gamification turns daily work life into a game with hopes to reap the benefits that games usually bring to extra-curricular life, to the work environment.

Who knows, maybe we’ll all be doing game-like activities at work in the near future. On application development and delivery teams, we’ll get power-ups when we check in code without issues. We’ll earn merit badges when people give high marks to an application’s user experience. When we double the number of automated tests, we’ll “level up” enough to qualify for membership in the Guild of Puissant Quality Professionals. – Tom Grant

So… does this sound too futuristic? Or is it possible?

[Read more on how good Scrum is like the World of Warcraft.]

[HT: Computer World UK]

23 Replies to “Gamification – Making Work a Game”

  1. Interesting idea! We already consider it with friend in some ideas we had to create some products linked to business and we came with nice ideas.

    I have been in employee recognition since 2 years and acknowledge employees realization is really important. People search for recognition of their accomplishments which many games and social networks use.

    The fact is that new generations are coming in and company need to find new ways to motivate employees, create team spirit and ensure people feels you care about them.

    I seen really nice company internal social networks that could be tweaked to ack like it, in fact I already develop one sales motivation web site and we used yearly themes such as Olympic, rac around the world to motivate employee to participate which after provided better sales results.


          1. For complex doing work vs. practicing work. Check out IGTC’s approach to Serious Games.

   (market research, product development, customer engagement) If you woke up today with a problem, Serious Games can help you develop results you can use to take action on the issue.

            Web 2.0 and Social Media allow for real-time input of social awareness and perspective. Simulations allow you to practice a known problem over and over to improve (good for incentive programs and rewards).

            I’m going to be writing more and more on this subject here:

  2. It’s not futuristic. For years as a product manager, I’d make a game out of development and QA with my teams. Game loops are pretty much the same as repeating sprints.

    We’re building this into our software now, things like turning stories/issues into emotionally packed “challenges” and “missions”, where the winner of closing an issue has their score go up, and rewarded with virtual gold. The points/levels/badges are all there, but this all just in support of a fundamentally good project management methodology.

    Do you know anyone else who has made a game of agile practice? I can imagine that it will more take off, but only when the tools start supporting it. after all, we live in our tools.

    1. Nice for support of similar item I guess, but in agile development we work as a team and having the idea of having people more rewarded than others based on completion of stories may cause some unwanted competition or “not totally done” stories to occurs.

      But still if use just for fun with no reward at the end that may be cool and having the team member receiving the “credit” to distribute among the team as he wish what he earned based on who helped him.

      That would make an easy informal recognition event to help build team spirit.

  3. It’s important to note the lack of rewards or incentives for complex work. Serious Games allow us to manage very complex work and large customer engagements. Finally a document that states the contrasts between valuable serious games and valuable gamification.

    Bravo Ken, for simply taking to your team and bringing it to your teams in software. There aren’t enough success stories about integration yet. I hope you’ll write it and link it here for us to read and share.

  4. I like the article as it speaks to behavior models. It’s high level, but as a school of thought, I have been focusing on the scalability of agile in large enterprise and NFP.

    “Scrum is a good start, XP is a good practice, agile is required for scalability.” The discussions are exciting.

    1. Well said Scotty. The conversations around it are indeed exciting. What makes it extra interesting is to hear it actually working in the field. Not a new new concept… but taking a hold none the less

  5. The concept opens up many possibilities, first and foremost one of the hurdles that our team runs into is getting boundary partners to share the same goals.

    Does anyone have any examples of how to distribute xp, $, leveling, power ups, etc.

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