Gamification Summit 2011: Life’s a Game, Learn to Play

The first annual Gamification Summit (January 20–21, San Francisco) lived up to the excitement surrounding the sold out event by attracting four hundred attendees and bringing together thought leaders in the tech, business and digital frontiers. Gamification, or the use of game elements outside the gaming world, is seen as an emerging trend, but has actually been around in various forms since the 19th century. As long as there have been rewards like “buy one, get one free” and spelling bee competitions to promote learning, gamification has been motivating people to unlock their potential through games. The GSummit was headed by Gabe Zichermann, an entrepreneur who literally wrote the book on gamification. He headed up the summit festivities wearing green, his trademark power color, and led the speakers in discussions including the challenges of using gamification as a business tool, games’ power to motivate people and upcoming trends in gamification for 2011.

It was a full house during the Summit’s opening panel

Several key takeaways include:

  • Gamification is not about the game mechanics used, but the experience players have
  • The term gamification will disappear when the technique becomes part of the standard toolkit for business marketing
  • It’s essential to know your market and what satisfaction that demographic is looking for from the gamification experience
  • Modern audiences seek meaningful challenges, anyone can make a game, but it’s more effective to exercise people’s creative and learning capacity
  • There is no game that does not teach (this inspired wild applause)
  • There isn’t anything you can’t gamify, including taxes and calculus lessons
  • Even Jay-Z applied gamification to promote his book launch, Decoded, with a world-wide treasure hunt

The workshop gave attendees the chance to test their gamification projects on peers

The second day of the Summit was a workshop that taught participants how to use gamification effectively and avoid spraying random rewards and points systems around the internet without engaging anyone. Gamification is labeled a “digital drug” because it stimulates humanity’s base instinct to compete and meet challenges. When used in meaningful ways, gamification can unlock people’s potential to improve society and themselves.

Additional coverage of the Summit:

Venture Beat

Bloomberg Businessweek