For decades, there have been on-going discussions about the usefulness or harm of computer games, their influence on the behavior and character of the younger generation, their connection with violence, etc. Irrespective of whether one thinks computer games are good or bad, there is no doubt that they have become essential elements of people’s lives. It is true especially for the millennial generation, as these people have been growing up in the era of elaborate, well-developed computer games with outstanding graphics and close to real life looking characters. For many people playing games has become an important part of pastime without which they cannot imagine their lives. However, even for those who are not fond of computer games (or the very popular nowadays cell phone gaming) they have grown to be a significant aspect of everyday life. In the 21st century games have a truly substantial influence on everyone’s daily activities.
Gamification is the use of game mechanics outside the gameplay. The main objective of gamification is user involvement, incentives to commit an action or procedure through the game mechanics, the formation of positive experience of interaction. Currently it is a technique used to involve people in various activities and spheres of life. There are a number of examples where game mechanics can significantly increase user retention, their interaction with the service and encourage making the necessary steps (training, performance of routine procedures that involve friends, etc.). To attract and keep clients, companies use such principles of gamification as introduction of high-quality stimuli, provision of numerous updates and new information, social involvement of customers, etc. Gamification in business has proven to be very effective not only in the sphere of involvement of new customers and users in some form of activity, but also as a change in the working process. Gaming mechanics are currently actively introduced and used in business to keep customers and employees, attract new audiences and keep them interested in the product or service.
Gamification has also greatly influenced people’s personal lives and their activities. Even those who are not fond of computer games are sometimes hooked by gamification techniques and elements that at that moment they would expect the least. The process of getting used to gamification practices in everyday life is quite simple – as businesses and applications use gaming techniques on everyday basis, people rapidly adjust to the notion of competition, content updates, avatars, etc. Therefore, it would be true to say that for everyone gamification has become a great part of life, and various elements of games have become usual for everyone.
Social networking is extremely common nowadays. It does not matter which application or network a person is using – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other – all of them are in fact comprised of various gamification principles. Firstly, on each network the user is asked to use a profile picture. The majority of people choose profile pictures very carefully, sometimes using well-edited photos of themselves, or even pictures of other people and characters. Here they implement the gaming idea of avatar – a character representing one’s person in a game. However, here a fighting sequence or quest is replaced with the social network game, which is no less exciting. Next, each social network has a system of appreciation: information posted by a user can be liked, or hearted, or even starred, and the more signs of appreciation a post gets, the better the user feels. Facebook has even introduced a system that shows the posts with more likes more often than those with less likes. This is another idea taken from gaming – from achievements one’s rating grows, and a person becomes of a higher status than other players. As a result, on social networks popular “players” get more followers and consequently more likes.
One should note that except the well-known applications that were created with the primary aim of connecting people and providing them with a platform for communication, more and more applications that have other primary purposes provide a networking opportunity. One of the best-known examples is Nike+, which is primarily an application for keeping track of one’s sports activities. But at the same time Nike+ is a well-developed and elaborate social networking program, which allows people to share achievements with friends, get likes and signs of support, set challenges for friends, etc. This is only one example of how gamification is entering everyday life of an ordinary user. Another illustration would be a person going jogging every morning. This is an individual activity with a primary aim to stay fit. As soon as Nike+ running application is installed on the mobile device, the person starts to show his or her achievements to friends/colleagues who are on the network, gets appreciation from others (and the application itself) for the longest or fastest run, invites others to go for a challenge together, etc. In this way, what started as simple jogging for the sake of physical exercising becomes a game played with the online community.
Gamification is nowadays an essential element of people’s lives. Even those who do not play computer games experience gaming principles in other spheres of life, even without realizing it. Talking form personal experience, I could say that my life is also “gamified”, although I am not a big fan of computer games and rarely get involved in playing them even on my cell phone. Still, as a person that uses social networks I can say that to a large extend my online life is based on gaming principles. I follow the number of likes under the photos and get excited about a large amount of them, I put some thought into the photo I choose as a profile picture, and into the content that is posted online and that I am tagged in. Only after thinking of gamification as something that exists in everyday life of people who do not actually play computer games I realize that I am actually playing. It is called networking, and I am not using an invented avatar, but in this process I am reinventing myself as an online character and I am following all the rules of computer games.
It is hard to imagine what the future of gamification will be like, as the world is evolving very fast, and technologies are taking up more and more space in human lives. One can assume that, as gamification has become an essential element of many technologies and social networks, with continuous technological development the gaming principles will also be further implemented in the lives of people. While those who used to play games will get more options to do it and, probably, will be more and more absorbed in the well-developed virtual reality, others will as well live by the gaming rules, although they will implement these rules in their social lives.
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