Gamification clarification.

I had a recent meeting with a client where I did what I too often do: use a relatively obscure term that requires a level of ‘get-it-ness’ that has yet to penetrate the popular consciousness. That term is ‘gamification.’

The easy definition? Take the techniques games use to delight their players, and apply them to non-game entities and actions. Need an example? Try this:

Dyson vacuum really suck. And that's a good thing.

• Use of color and design to elicit visual interest and tactile engagement? Check.
• Monitorable feedback indicating incremental success toward ultimate goal? Check.
• Optimized for replicable pleasure response even after repeated play? Check.
Yup, it’s a game.

I’m talking about vacuuming for Hoover’s sake. Dyson took a mundane, even hated, household chore and recreated it into a game called ‘holy moly, look at the crap I pulled out of my carpet—I wonder have many times I can fill the canister.’ And to some (including me) it’s as addictive as Candy Crush. That’s how my beloved wife gets me to vacuum. Not as often as she’d like (we’re seeing a therapist about this), but still, she knows she can sic me on doing the Dyson and I’m good for a couple of hours (as long as my back-queue of Radiolab podcasts holds out).

Dyson gamified a chore. And became a billionaire in the process.

Gamification is nothing new.
Remember Tom Sawyer? A fence that needed whitewashing?
And how he got others to do if for him?
Call it Twainian gamification.


Said client (referred to above) took mild offense because he perceived ‘gamification’ to be a ‘too fey’ description for what his very serious company was doing. I get that, but come on, if gamification can sell your service/product like Dyson sells vacuums, wouldn’t you just love that?

That’s what I thought. Call it ‘user interface simplification and addictive usage amplification’ if your MBA needs you to. But really, it’s called ‘gamification.’

– D.P. Knudten

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