Why we love games and gamification

Insert Coin 5/12/22 8:30 AM

The very human psychology of why we love games and why gamification works

What is a game?

When you truly deconstruct the term "game", I've found that this list of definitions pretty much hits the spot. Taken from the excellent TedTalk "Why we play games" by Jon Dallas:

  • A game is a set of rules defining the process of achieving an objective.

  • This objective is considered important and taken seriously inside the game world, but is considered unimportant in the real world.

  • The process indirectly yields unspoken, real world benefits.

  • Games are primarily played to overcome the difficulties and consequences of pursuing certain real-world goals directly.


Why do we play games instead of just doing the real world objective?

There is something called "The law of reversed effort". We as humans participate in game processes all the time when trying to reach goals in real life. It is so woven into the human experience that most of us don't even think about it.

When trying to fall asleep, it's very hard to just force yourself in to sleeping. Instead we trick our mind to relax by doing a completely unimportant task: For example, counting invisible sheep.

If we want to become friends with someone, or sell them a product, it's very hard to just do so directly, and it would be considered weird to ask a person to please become their friend or to "PLEASE BUY THIS".


It's all about the journey

Games give us the framework for being fully engaged in the journey and process of achieving our objectives. To reach that real-world objective of becoming someone's friend, it's often more effective to engage in what could be called a social game that involves a bunch of other (seemingly unimportant) activities. Like having dinner together, giving each other compliments, or doing someone a favor.

The same goes for digital products. If you want users to do certain tasks in order to achieve objectives, whether it's the user's or a company's objective, it's much more effective to make it the experience "more like a game". Game mechanics are naturally more engaging to us, and having an engaging user experience is crucial for user conversion and retention, as well as creating ambassadors for products, brands and companies.

The magic circle

Sam Von Ehren, game maker for the New York Times, said this in an article about why we love games, and why playing a game is like stepping inside a magical circle:

"We adhere to these agreements and rules faithfully, committing to and executing the game with little hesitation. Game designers call this alternate state of being “the magic circle.” Imagine a circle drawn in chalk on a sidewalk. When we are inside the chalk we are “playing” the game. We’ll only do what the rules of the game allow. We will try to win. When the game ends, we leave the circle and return to normal. The magic circle is what separates a game from reality."

He continues:

"I use the metaphor of a chalk line because the magic circle is not an absolute barrier or even a physical one. We can enter and exit the magic circle freely. We bring our bodies, personalities, and life experiences into the game. We take the memories and experience of the game with us when we leave. The chalk line casts a spell on that space of sidewalk and turns it into a space for playing."

Why you should gamify everything

This quote is taken from an article on EdApp.com:

"Consider how many times a day you already engage with gamified content, whether that be ‘hitting like’ on social media; achieving medals and getting ‘kudos’ from your friends on your running app; feeling compelled to spend your loyalty points at your favourite store; or drilling yourself in Russian every morning with virtual flashcards"

As humans, we all have an intrinsic motivation to play that still exists deep down, regardless of our age. With gamification, we can make most of our everyday tasks and activities more engaging, with has a lot of positive effects associated with it. From learning, to behavior change, and knowledge sharing.

Easier than ever to use gamification

We at Insert Coin have realized the need for everyone to easily gamify their companies or products. With 13 million gamified users and more on the way, it seems many companies are also catching on to the idea that developing your own gamification is often difficult and expensive.

Read more on what makes GWEN unique.


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