Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to define. Everyone knows what a game is, but agreeing on a definition is another story. Wikipedia’s no-nonsense entry defines a game as: “structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment…with goals, challenges, rules and interactions.”
Gamification usually works by layering game-like rewards over existing sites and concepts. You take something people are already intrinsically interested in and use gaming to give the service an “engagement boost”. So Nike+ gamifies running by adding challenges and progress bars. Uber-geeky Q&A site Stack Overflow offers badges as rewards for solving programming dilemmas.
Influential technology research company Gartner recently predicted that by 2015, 50% of businesses will use gamification to “obtain and keep customer loyalty”.
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