Gamification – burning desire is worse than fire

“All the world’s a stage, and all
the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances…”

William Shakespeare

Do you know what is the favorite thing to do when humans are left to themselves? No, not sex and alcohol at all! Not sleeping or enjoinment from doing nothing. Not sports or visiting friends. Not even social media lurking (counterintuitive though it may sound). In accordance to stats, the majority of people prefer to play with their imagination when they are free.

They are retreated with the alternate realities created by others with books, movies, videogames, and television as well as with their innate worlds created by themselves with daydreaming.  

From this perspective, a 5-year-old girl pretending to be a princess and 65-year-old dude surfing BDSM porno sites do not differ too much: both are humans playing mental games. And know why they play? Because from the psychological point of view, the polarity of play is depression.

Where to look for the roots

Since people often consider work as the opposite of play, the outcome is, therefore, clear: work is to tend to depression unless it is gamified. Not labor, training, or struggle for survival play the first violin in the intellectual care of children, as scientists declare.

This is the play that contributes to the nurture of human mind above all. The video game industry comprehends the power of play completely gaining billions from players immersed in play often around the clock. The energy they spend playing does not count: the passion is the point.

Contrary to the popular belief, the game elements had been embedded into different people activities long before 1980s when gamification was booming. As the commonly accepted definition suggests that “Gamification is the use of game elements in non-game contexts”, such gamification attributes as competitiveness and shared missions are well known since the ancient times in the forms of the Olympic Games, geographical discoveries, and warfare. The web technology and software development have derived from them only.  

Gamification is not a marketing bullshit

Who first implemented the play elements in manufacturing and in other labors that are far from the traditionally gamified ones is not important actually. For example, the “Stakhanovism” movement among Soviet industrial workers of 1930s was created on the competitiveness. As the marketing legend goes, a coal miner Aleksey Stakhanov managed somehow to go over an average mining day-work for 14 (!) times.

Mario and gamification

Immediately afterward, Soviet propaganda made him a superstar. The Stakhanovism as a form of competition started spreading among workers like wildfire. Any extra staff motivation seemed redundant. Not money, but honor and public recognition rewarded those who followed the example of Stakhanov.

Of course, the production increase by means of just competitiveness was simple possible in the Soviet society not infected with consumerism at that time. Nonetheless, the task was to recognize the effective marketing approach of the Stakhanovism. And Soviet marketers did it really well.

Digital pets engender playful culture

When the world became digital, new toys for people appeared - the gadgets. We love our smartphones like pets. We feed them cherishingly with energy, money, and applications. We are fond of playing with them. This activity should be admitted as the largest worldwide play, the global game where humans and computers participate together. The boredom and ordinary work can become extraordinary when elements of game are incorporated.

Digitals make it easy. Such seemingly mundane practice as a ticket sale is transformed into an amusing game on smartphone screens with rewards, quests, social media status badges, and leaderboards. Check, for example, the Miles & Smiles program of Turkish Airlines.

The physiology comes together with UX when having completed a task on the gamified app we get a dose of dopamine feeling pleasure. This feeling motivates us to go on. Receiving a reward is important. And the digital instant reward is more attractive than ordinary money for most of us.

Some $ 2-5 in a bank account can hardly be valuable while taking the case to the next level of a rewarding program or an additional status star for a social profile will contribute a lot to our self-esteem. Quietly and discreetly, our digital pets are transforming the very perception of our affairs and surroundings into a new type of human culture – the playful culture.


As our behavior is being digitized, it appears that namely IT industry staff is involved more organically in the playful culture. Competition and jokes, hard work and dedication, creativity, and new ideas make work and play overlap. Digital teams have developed some peculiar methods how to keep a work-play balance comfortable inspiring people to work because they want to, not have to.

Hackatons, marion and gamification

Applying digital triggers and new narratives to the workflow and product development, the IT companies realize some technical limits of gamification. The novelty is one of its core principles here.

When a task is too ample and serious it could tire users to lose their hands. Hence, gamification works in a task-by-task mode creating temporary motivation to encourage users with narrow contexts. The “click-and-get-reward” solutions should be simple and transparent for customers based on the famous carrot & stick motivational method.

Flocking instinct matters

Another key feature of the playfulness is the sense of belonging. The shared missions foster relationships between business and customers by means of establishing special interest groups.

The approach is mature and effective as it comes from the very nature of humans who are tribal creatures. Criticizing gamification some consider badges, emblems, and other different partisan symbols obsolete and zero effective. Say this to football fans transgressing after a game with faces painted in the colors of their precious team.

Making customers buy more, eat healthier, run oftener, or stay online longer is easier when they are gathered in like-minded groups. While imitation is the best appreciation, people like to follow celebrities being ready to spend extra on something fashionable or provoking.

However, sometimes this is not an easy thing to do single-handed. The peer pressure facilitates the task in such a case. Besides, the group symbolism as an element of play works well where the team building is crucial. Wearing a uniform with a corporative logo is an element of play. Nonetheless, the majority of the staff plays this game too seriously to ignore.

The Cyberspace plays instead of working

Billions of human hours spent in the virtuality where people play (i.e. work!) really hard with their Facebook and Twitter profiles hint that we are probably living in a videogame estimating everything in terms of “how fun”, “how seamless”, and “how pleasing” instead of using the offline standards like weight, value, or significance. This playful experience might be one of the reasons why the simulation conspiracy is gaining popularity these days.

The booming bot development seems to get the point in achieving a true synergy of work and play. Actually, the whole scope of the contemporary technological trends like VR, AI, and IoT reflects the human inclination to play with everything they touch.

The deepest level of gamification can be found in the mere nature of our consciousness. What is our ego but a set of clichés and patterns of the conventional game elements amplifying our inward ability to restrain outward chaos?

Indeema believes that gamification is as unavoidable in the present reality as gravitation. You may ignore gravitation (bad idea obviously), you may resist it (those who suffer from obesity know how hard it is), or you may use it adapting to your ongoing affairs wherever possible.

Developing software with a behavioral design inspires customers to keep playing that can catch their attention more effectively. And where users’ attention and efforts go, the value follows definitely.

Consequently, gamification is the soft power that grasps the most valuable commodity of the digital era – human time and attention.  


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