Our final Blog post subject for #KSUDSM this semester was Student’s Choice. For many courses I have taken over the years, this might have been a recipe for a quick easy and out assignment. This, however, feels more like walking into a grand buffet, where you have sampled a little something from each of the major food groups (many for the first time) in the last few weeks and despite still being a little hungry, you are told to choose just one item from the menu. Surprisingly enough, to me, I think my choice will be Gamification.
Pong was the big video game break through when I was growing up. Players turned a little knob to make a paddle (a small vertical dash) go up or down on one of the two vertical edges of the screen. The screen itself was black and the paddles were green. The idea was to block the small, slow moving, glowing dot from getting past your paddle. That was pretty much the entire strategy. No other problem solving challenge and no advertising or branding opportunities. Of course, Gamification is actually much more than that. I think this subject most intrigued me because of all the interesting social media we covered these past weeks, this one appears to have such a diverse impact and applicability.
Gamification “takes the characteristics we like about games and adds them to everyday actions in order to make them more interesting” (Technology Advice). From making a major purchase down to brushing your teeth. Its appeal is broad and applied to a variety of industries, including advertising/marketing, entertainment, and technology. Thinking back, I now recognize that my mom was influenced by the technique way back when I was a child. S&H Green Stamps were popular awards for shopping at participating stores. They could be redeemed for gifts after collecting sufficient quantities. She, like millions of Americans, loyally returned week after week to primarily to participating retailers.
Some historians now speculate that the concept of gamification actually contributed to the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, countering stories of slave involvement. There were teams and rewards, similar to the badges that many game strategist employ today. Thankfully, pyramid building games didn’t have Social Media to help spread the popularity of the activity, but gamification continues to have a huge impact in a variety of areas.
For example, many of the top PhD scientists worked in vain for 15 years, trying to break the code of a “crystal structure for one of the AIDS-causing viruses called the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus.” A collaboration between the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and a team from the school’s Biochemistry department created an online puzzle video game about protein folding, called FoldIt. Over 240,000 participants competed, and within 10 days, generated a serious breakthrough in the AIDS Research field (Yu-Kai). That is some very effective crowdsourcing.
Product marketing has also evolved thanks to gamification. Dollar for dollar, one of the most touted examples is that of M&M’s Eye Spy Pretzel campaign. It was basically a take on the old Where’s Waldo game, except with M&M’s, and Waldo was actually a pretzel M&M. It was produced at a very low cost and within a short time it garnered 25,000 new Facebook likes, 6,000 shares, and 10,000 comments.
The US Army’s “Virtual Army Experience” game has exposed the organization to a potential pool of millions of recruits. Growing in popularity, since its inception in 2002, it continues to be their best recruitment tool.
Although these were but a few samplings from our gamification portion of the buffet table I think collectively they have the most potential to add value to society as a whole. Budding Social Media gourmets would fare well to focus on the art of gamification.