For the Love of Points, Achievements, and Badges: How Gamification Can Change Human Behavior

“IRL,” or In Real Life, is a term used by virtual gamers in digital worlds to designate that they are talking about the real, physical world.

Now that you know what IRL is, forget it — it’s irrelevant as game interactions no longer take place solely in digital worlds.

The line between life and games continues to blur as interaction designers continue to figure out new, innovative ways to get users to interact with products and services.

When Play Becomes a Game

Too often people mistake play and games. While it is difficult to have a game without play, it is all too easy to play without it being a game.

To put this in perspective, imagine two boys throwing a tennis ball back and forth to one another in the park. They are having fun as they carelessly toss and catch the ball. These two boys are playing, but there are elements missing that make what they are doing a game.

Take the same two boys and the same tennis ball, and one of the boys draws a line in the dirt with their foot, and declares that the two boys will take turns throwing the ball from the line. The first boy to hit a nearby public trash can with the ball three times wins.

Play has now become a game. Rules have been introduced, and most importantly, both players have agreed to the rules before entering the game space. There is now a way to succeed with a reward (in this case, bragging rights). And there is a way to fail with no reward.

Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing to encourage engagement and interaction with a product, service, or brand. And gamification is not a new thing. Games have been invading our culture(s) for decades, often times hidden under layers of points, calculations, and redemption programs.

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