Pew/Elon Study of Gamification Should Spark Debate

Pew/Elon Study of Gamification Should Spark Debate


In a recent. study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Elon University 53 percent of respondents “mostly agreed” with this statement:

“By 2020, there will have been significant advances in the adoption and use of gamification. It will be making waves on the communications scene and will have been implemented in many new ways for education, health, work, and other aspects of human connection and it will play a role in the everyday activities of many of the people who are actively using communications networks in their daily lives.”

That data dovetails with other research that shows that gamification is making gains in many arenas, including in the work place.

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal cited two research reports, one from Gartner that that says by 2014 some 70 percent of large companies will be using gamification in some form. The other was a report from M2 Research that gamification software, consulting and marketing will reach $938 million by 2014.

Still, that 42 percent of Pew/Elon survey participants believe that gamification’s impact will not reach these significant levels casts some doubt and opens the door for debate on the role these techniques will play.

The Pew/Elon study was interesting in that it used tension pairing to encourage participants to expound on their answers. Not surprisingly, those responses on both sides of the question also are revealing.

One anonymous respondent wrote:

“We are already well on our way to a fully engaged gamification world. Our buying patterns, our health care, our communications, and our recreating and entertainment all have built-in gamification already—whether people recognize it or not! As the sophistication of the approach, and the improved access emerges, we’ll all be reaching for the next level and the most points.”

Another pointed wrote that gamification was the same thing as an incentive plan, noting that such plans had been around a long time and that the only difference now was in sophistication and the tools (computers) that are being used.

No matter which side of this debate you take, there is no doubt that many companies are now using gamification for recruiting, testing, training and motivating employees.

A report posted on CNN Money highlighted a growing trend, specifically the case of Upstream Systems which posted “Upstream Challenge” that incorporates game mechanics in a competitive test aimed at identifying people with the skill set the company was needing to hire.

If you want to see gamification at work, take the Upstream Challenge. It’s not easy, but it’s fun, and you might learn something interesting. It will definitely force you to think.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the use of gaming tests would make its way into the personnel recruiting field.

Game mechanics can be used to test just about anything — from analytical skills to manual dexterity and everything in between. The techniques have already become a regular part of many workforce training programs.

Gamification is also a significant part of many employee motivation efforts. Companies are driving better performance and reinforcing desired behaviors with rewards and incentives.

These uses of gamification techniques are gaining in popularity.

We will all have to wait to see where this gamification in the workplace ultimately leads, but the odds are pretty good now that working people have already or soon will encounter gamification in some form.

Which side of the question do you fall on? Is gamification a trend or is it going to become an ingrained aspect of the business world?


Image (CC) by drdemento


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  1. I think gamification is a set of tools that can be applied to various disciplines. At best, the tools enable you to design systems, organizations, societies and their mechanics so that inherently preferred actions gravitate towards desired goals. I’d really like to do my Ph.D. on that to conceive a practical theory. Gamification is a same kind of toolbox as is usability/HCI and design.

  2. I believe the seeds of gamification have already been planted in most corporations (bonuses, promotions, team-building and evaluation processes, etc.). The word “gamification” itself will probably be used less and less as its features become the mainframe…

    • “The word “gamification” itself will probably be used less and less as its features become the mainframe…”

      That seems to be the trend that many experts are pointing to. If you were at GSummit this year, Tim Chang described gamification as one facet of engagement science and is quickly becoming the norm.