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FEATURE: If it’s dull, maybe it’s time to gamify?

You love games – that’s why you got a job in this fantastic industry. You’ve been playing them since you were knee high to a joystick, and now you make the games that will inspire the next generation of games developers.

But something fascinating has been happening with games in recent years, some would say longer; games are finding their way into all walks of life, making the seemingly mundane a lot more palatable.

Gamification, if you’ve not come across the term before, is taking the techniques found in gameplay and applying them to all manner of tasks outside the games industry.

So why would you want to do this? Essentially, any task that could be considered dull, repetitive, or one where you want to influence the behaviour of individuals such as shoppers or members of social networks, could be a prime candidate for gamification.

EpicWin, for example, is a to-do list app that ‘allows’ you to earn points for completing each of the tasks on a list you specify. We all love that feeling of striking a line through the middle of a completed task (sometimes several lines), but EpicWin takes that feeling and encourages you to get more done by enhancing the experience with graphics and scores.

Early examples of gamification awarded points for undertaking simple activities on websites or apps, and therefore encouraging engagement.

The natural follow-on from points is of course a leaderboard to excite our natural competitiveness, and therefore repetition of the tasks. We all want to reap the glory of being top dog!

Gamification has now moved far beyond these addictive, but simple approaches.

Games are being applied to processes in the workplace, and large crowdsourcing public projects, such as sifting through huge amounts of data looking for errors, where you just feel like you are playing a game.

A great example of this is DigitalKoot, in which ‘gamers’ are helping find mistakes in the Finnish eArchives, by playing a game that involves typing words as they appear on screen. Correct answers help build a bridge and navigate a character on to the next level.

Volunteers, as DigitalKoot refers to them, have given 230,000 minutes to the project and completed 4.8 million microtasks at the time of writing. Those are impressive figures and could not have been achieved without the fun gamification approach that has been taken.

So what has all this got to do with you as a developer, artist, or “A N Other” games industry role? Put simply it is a huge opportunity, not only to build revenues, but to take the skills that you have spent years learning and apply them to real world problems and processes. And by skills, we don’t just mean coding, AI, modelling or level design – it’s the other softer skills too.

You know what makes a game great, addictive and entertaining – you understand the psychology of gaming.

These, as much the technical skills, are those that need to be applied to make gamification a success. Designing the concept for a gamified process or problem is not something that can be left to the company that needs to drive engagement in a process, unless they are a games company!

Gartner has predicted that by 2015, more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes, and the first pure gamification conference took place in January 2011.

There are a number of companies having great success in this area, and if Gartner’s prediction is to be believed there are going to be plenty more opportunities for UK companies to seize.

Perhaps you’ll be among them, and transform what we currently think of as a mundane task into a fun activity? If so, the Intel AppUp developer program is the ideal way to distribute your app with its support for multiple devices, operating systems and app stores, and with the tools and resources you need to make breakthrough apps.

Join today at http://appdeveloper.intel.com

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