March 24, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 37°F


Making real life more game-like

Nearly everyone plays games. Whether people are hard-core gamers with multiple systems or casual players of Angry Birds, they are familiar with earning rewards for completing in-game goals. They enjoy trying to better their skills and show off to their friends.

What if those game elements could be used outside of virtual reality? What if reading the news or going to school could feel like playing a game? That’s the idea behind gamification, the application of game qualities to things that haven’t traditionally been games.

Some companies are pursuing how to tap into gamification. The company Badgeville has turned it into a business model. By hiring employees from gaming giants like Zynga, the company creates game systems for companies that typically don’t develop games. Dell, eBay and Universal Music Group are a few of the companies that have turned to Badgeville. Universal, for example, used a game to keep users checking the site daily for points.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for this burgeoning social phenomenon. Using games to encourage product participation is spreading across the consumer market. The media and educational institutions have a lot of potential to use games to their advantage. The news industry needs better engagement from its readers, and by adding a layer into its product that provides an extra incentive for people to comment or post tips, it could see a rise in participation. Citizen journalists could be rewarded with digital or real-world swag for contributing. With a ranking system or moderation, organizations could better utilize their public.

Children love games, and that makes education an especially reactive market for gamification. Imagine a system that allows children to work at their own pace, only advancing once they fully understand a subject, then being rewarded for it. School of One, an experimental education system, tailors its program around each student through classroom, group and computer work. Introducing achievements into the system could be an honor for students. Kids could receive a reward for reading their first 300-page book, for example.

Gamification is still in its infancy and has a long way to go before it permeates our culture. There are still many industries like the news business that have yet to explore the possibilities of adding a game layer to their product. Others, like education, are already experimenting with new systems that may end up using games as a key element. Your favorite cell phone game isn’t going anywhere, but the organizations that can use gamification are headed for bigger and better things.

TJ Gunther is a senior journalism major. Email him at