Known as gamification, the introduction and integration of classic gaming elements into everyday situations is a trend that has picked up pace over the past few years. Most people enjoy some aspects of competition, whether that be through the ability to compare scores objectively with other players or to chase individual targets and personal bests. Technology is such a prominent and intuitive part of life now, and often this technology can facilitate the gamification of activities that were previously devoid of a sense of competition, progression and achievement.
It is now a rarity if a major chain does not offer an app for its customers. Gone are the days where consumers have to sift through an assortment of rubbish at the bottom of their bag in search for a loyalty card with one stamp from months ago. Global heavyweights such as Subway and Starbucks offer apps that track customers’ progress towards unlocking free items or special discounts, applying the kind of technique traditionally found in video games to introduce feelings of achievement into everyday situations. Subway’s loyalty app has a rating of 4.5/5 from over 21,000 users; after all, who doesn’t enjoy something for nothing?
Part of gamification 101 – or rather, gamification before it was even a buzzword, the use of reward schemes to unlock bonuses is not a new innovation. For example, food and drink locations such as coffee shops have offered loyalty cards for years, but other industries are beginning to introduce similar concepts too. Improving fitness is a task that can seem overwhelming, but this pressure is alleviated by a range of fitness apps that offer rewards for meeting goals, allow users to track their progress in the hope of beating of their previous personal best and provide opportunities for people to share their scores to add a social element to an otherwise individual activity. In fact, as VeryWellFit highlights, some of these apps even give you real-life rewards, in the form of cash or charity donations in your name. In a similar fashion, online casinos have begun to introduce bonuses for players who complete certain achievements for games, with Betway Casino providing an analysis of gamification that reports how these incentives can add an extra thrill and immersion element for players. While games are obviously an integral part of online casinos, the introduction of long-term targets and a feel of progression through levels shows a conscious attempt to use gamification to create a more gratifying consumer experience. Those who work in an office environment will have experienced a similar usage of targets and rewards to increase motivation, with a competitive edge often leading to greater productivity and higher morale. Motivation through gamification at the workplace has been pointed out by Inc.com as a very effective way to enhance productivity.
Emojis have transcended their original medium to become commonplace in society. The Emoji Movie was never expected to be a cinematic masterpiece akin to The Godfather when it hit cinemas in 2017, but its score of 3.1 on IMDB is a damning indictment of its quality (or lack thereof). Critics roundly and vigorously condemned the movie; Vulture’s review considered it one of the “darkest, most dismaying” films ever produced. Such brutal assessments suggest that in hindsight it is a movie that should never have been made, but the fact that it was demonstrates how society has begun to appropriate aspects of technology for new entertainment purposes. Sky News’ decision to use emojis to reflect upon the results of local elections in the United Kingdom is emblematic of how serious topics have begun to be merged with the use of emojis. As The Independent reported, this decision of a legitimate news channel to deploy such an approach raised eyebrows, but those eyebrows will gradually remain lower at such events as they become more common. Even the Guardian introduced an instant-messaging layout for a page discussing the current state of Brexit negotiations.
Whether you like it or not, the option to express opinions through the simple click of a like or dislike button is now present in a multitude of places. The “like” feature rose to prominence through Facebook, although Mark Zuckerberg has so far resisted the calls for the introduction of a “dislike” button for those who are not so easily enamoured by everything. However, other companies have offered users more balance in their freedom of expression. The ability for users of YouTube to upvote and downvote comments gives power to the people, with some people buoyed by the prestige that can come with a successful comment. A similar system exists on Reddit, with the comments gamified by the balance of upvotes and downvotes becoming equivalent to a score in a video game. One comment on Reddit received a net total of 98,600 upvotes, a high score when it comes to contributing on the website.
Whether through the introduction of bonuses that reward loyalty, the use of emojis to blur the boundaries between technology and everyday life or the use of likes and dislikes to track popularity, society has become increasingly gamified. It is difficult to see this trend reversing, with the element of competition set to become an inextricable part of everyday activities. Part of the thrill of gaming is that it sets targets to be beaten over any period of time, and removing those targets would be problematic for invested consumers.