The Raccoopod Episode 2: What is Gamification

The Raccoopod Podcast

Join us in our second podcast where we set out a definition of gamification.  We want people to understand how we see gamification and how we intend to use it.  Is our definition different from yours?  Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts.


What is Gamification?


Welcome to the Raccoopod! Where the goal of our podcast is to give you the insights into gamification, what it is, and why you should consider it for your applications. I’m your host Zach Bearinger, and Today we are breaking down Gamification.  This will be a broad overview covering what gamification is, what parts of games we are using to make it and looking at two cases of gamification to understand the benefits that can be gained from it.  Let’s jump into it.

So… What is gamification?  Let’s start with the Oxford Dictionary definition.  


  • The application of typical elements of game playing (Example point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. 


There is also a quote from Richard Stokes “Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun” 


Ok so from the quote and definition it is telling us something about gamification.  The goal of gamification is to increase engagement or as Richard Stokes puts it.  “Make the hard stuff fun.”  I like this quote because it covers a surface level as to what gamification is.  Like what would the point of making the hard things in life fun?  What does that really mean?  I see it as looking at the things people struggle with in their life and making them something they want to do.  So in a single word gamification is seeking to improve Engagement.  This can be done in two different methods, enjoyment and motivation.  The implementation will change depending on what subject we are looking to add gamification to.  Either method has us look at typical game elements to use as a base for gamification.

 So you may be wondering, what are typical elements of games?  Mostly this is game mechanics (such as set collection) but can also include multiple visual and audio techniques to improve engagements.  To get a real sense what game mechanics are and how they work individually and as a group let’s break down Monopoly to get a sense of why each mechanic matters and how they work together to make a compelling game.

 So when you play Monopoly what is the end goal?  The established goal in the rules is to “Become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.”  So we already have some hints as to some of the mechanics.  There is a strong resource management mechanic throughout Monopoly.  What does that mean?  Well in Monopoly’s case, it’s how you manage your money and your properties.  This mechanic leads to lots of interesting questions for players to consider.  Should I buy this property?  Should I Mortgage this property?  Which property should I put my first house on?  Ok thats a resource management mechanic but we haven’t even started a turn. 

 Your turn starts with a roll of the dice afterwards you move your piece equal to the number you rolled.  This is a straightforward mechanic but what does it add to the game of Monopoly.  First off it provides a degree of randomness to the game.  You can’t plan several turns ahead or choose where you land.  This is an important factor as without a roll to move mechanic nobody would ever pay rent or land on a space that didn’t benefit them.  There are several other mechanics that could take the place of roll to move but they lead to different outcomes, But with the roll to move people have a simple turn structure roll then resolve the space they land on.  It provides a simplicity that anyone can understand and get going immediately.   The randomness provides a sense of surprise and suspense.  “If he rolls a 6 or 7 he’ll need to pay me 250$?” “I need a 2 so that I can buy Park Place”

 Ok, so there is a roll to move and resource management mechanics. Are there any other mechanics in Monopoly? Yes, but I’ll breeze through these. There is an Auction mechanic, where if a player doesn’t buy a property they land on it starts an auction between all players for that property.  The auction starts at the next player but could allow someone to buy it at a discount, and also motivates players to purchase properties when they can so that you can reach the mid-late game sooner.  What does that entail for monopoly?  It’s being able to trade with other players and start developing properties.  There is the player elimination mechanic where if a player runs out of money and properties to mortgage they go bankrupt and are knocked out of the game.  This provides survivors with a sense of real progression and adds a weight to all your actions.  Are you progressing towards victory or are you sliding towards bankruptcy? 

  That’s more than you probably would have guessed.  There are lots of mechanics and massive differences in play from different combinations and implementations of them.  These are what drive the unique interactive nature of games, what happens after a user puts in an input or makes a decision. Each mechanic provides a question that requires an answer from the player.  When we do a gamification project we pick and choose different mechanics depending on the project as to what will work with the topic and goal as well as maximizing its effectiveness.   

 Alright so we now know what gamification is and how we implement it.  Now the big question is “Is Gamification effective?”.  Well let’s look at some real world examples.  

 First up,could gamification help scientific research?  Well we’ve got an excellent example to look at. It’s a puzzle game called Foldit.  What is Foldit?  From their website “Foldit is a revolutionary crowdsourcing computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research.”  So Foldit is a puzzle game that focuses on players manipulating a protein to have the highest score.  Foldit uses a combination of Score, Leaderboards, and Teams for increased engagement across it’s players.  Ok, so they have an engaging puzzle game but what value does that have?  

 Researchers look at the top solutions and apply the knowledge they gain from those solutions to scientific research.  But we have the ability to create AI and programs to generate such solutions. Why are they using people’s solutions?  Well people’s solutions have proven to be as effective or better than computer generated solutions.  It does follow logic as abstract problem solving has long been one of mankind’s best survival tactics and something that AI’s struggle with.  The design of Foldit promotes this creative thinking and allows anyone who wants to help with scientific research to be able to do so.

 For an example that’s more indicative of the work we do at Raccoopack Media.  So let’s look at the Training web game we made for VCH and how successful it’s been. They were looking to create a training application that would include gamification techniques to be more effective than regular training.  Our solution used several different mechanics to convey the information in a more engaging way.  We used Avatars and visualizations to make the training more personal. We broke down the training goals into several scenarios that would feature the user’s avatar and a situation they needed to solve.    We also included leaderboards to encourage friendly competition as well as replaying to get a higher score.

 But let’s talk about the benefits from creating a gamified training module.  It has been introduced across 10 hospitals and used in staff orientation at Vancouver General Hospital. Over 1000 staff have been trained with practical knowledge and skills. From these metrics we can see that the training has been seen as a useful tool to use in more training opportunities.  VCH also conducted a survey on the staff who played the game.  Within the evaluation they found 93% of participants found that the games helped them learn and understand person-centered care.  90% of those surveyed agreed that they learned practical knowledge of dementia care and that they would recommend the games to others.


Thanks for listening! If you’re interested in learning more about our app development services or how gamification can help your organization, feel free to book an exploratory call today and meet the pack at Raccoopack Media!  Also share this podcast with your friends and follow us on social media @Raccoopack Media, Have a great day.


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