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The Accounted is a free app targeting high school and university students, recently making its debut in digital media stores. According to the release note, it aims to strengthen accounting & business as a career choice by showcasing an original way to acquire bookkeeping skills and get one’s head around intricate financial transactions. In a nutshell, The Accounted is an addictive 1940s mystery game starring female detective Ace, who is recruited by an agent to investigate the doings of notorious gangster Tony Zoots. In the process of the investigation, Ace combs crime scenes for clues, reconstructs maps and solves a number of accounting quizzes and puzzles to get closer to the truth. To engage players even more, the app displays useful tips and fun facts to the likes of: “Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger and Janet Jackson all studied accounting”.

While the link between making memorable music and producing accurate balance sheets is not yet recognized, the innovation trend Canadian developers Rocketfuel Productions, in consultation with Athabasca University and the AAUA, are capitalizing on is unmistakable. The Accounted is a perfect illustration of gamification applied to learning.

Whether you are new to the concept or a seasoned professional seeking more examples in action, read on to learn more.

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“Gamification”. The term is everywhere - everywhere except on Merriam-Webster, Investopedia or any other established business or non-business dictionary, it seems. Turn to Wikipedia and Google statistics, however, and the two will jointly inform you that (1) gamification principles are currently applied to improve everything from user engagement and physical exercise, to data quality and learning and (2) explicit web searches of the term began appearing around 2010 and now rest at record high. In other words, gamification - both as a word and as a practice - is seriously trending.

Is the idea of gamifying products, services or business models to make them more attractive to users wholly new? Not entirely. The term was first coined by Nick Pelling, a British-born computer programmer and inventor, back in 2002 who also gave birth to the very first consulting efforts in this area. Interestingly, Nick’s innovative professional service proposition, “to help manufacturers evolve their electronic devices into an entertainment platform” hardly caught on. In his own words: it failed miserably. It was not until the next decade that organizations finally began to invest in “applying elements of game design to non game settings” – the definition most commonly used today. Further reading: The (short) pre-history of “gamification… on Nick Pelling’s Blog. Note the curious mention of CCTVs being, in certain ways, nothing more than industrial video games.

Which areas of a business stand to gain most from gamification? According to entrepreneur, speaker, and gamification pioneer Yu-kai Chou, the answer is not straightforward but the size of the firm will generally dictate what matters. In his experience, start-ups tend to seek help with product gamification (i.e. creating a winning product that provides an addictive experience);mid-sized companies prefer to focus on marketing gamification (i.e. attracting new customers within a desired segment and keeping them engaged); while Fortune 500 firms and other large organizations gain mostly from workplace gamification (i.e. training/ motivating employees or cultivating solidarity among them in a non-standard, effortless way).

Let’s look at one example of each.

Product gamification – Reality Drop

Reality Drop is an Internet activism tool that rewards users for "dropping" facts about climate change onto various online forums and in comment fields on hot articles. Its purpose: to dismiss existing rumors and help spread verified facts vis-à-vis what is really happening in the world. Launched by The Climate Reality Project, an organization founded by Al Gore, in collaboration with Skeptical Science, an organization of volunteer scientists, the gamified web experience has received tremendous attention and promises to become a powerful opinion-changing vehicle in the years to come. Further reading: Al Gore Gamifies the Climate Change Conversation on Mashable.com.

Marketing gamification – The Magnum Pleasure Hunt

The Magnum Pleasure Hunt Across the Internet is what marketing specialists call an “advergame”. First launched in 2011 and now coming for the 3rd time round, the “Pleasure Hunt” was part of an innovative campaign series created by Unilever brand Magnum to promote its ice-cream products. In a setting reminiscent of Super Mario, a female avatar tries to collect as many chocolates as possible while running across a number or well-known luxury item websites. In terms of reach, the game was played by over 7.000.000 people and prompted for the financing of two sequels. Further reading: Gamesandnarratives.net. For more marketing gamification cases visit: Yu-kai Chou’s Blog.

Workplace gamification: Stepping Up to Management

Harvard’s Stepping up to Management is an online resource that enables new managers to learn their tasks while on the job. The training, which combines content from leading experts with a flexible, modular format, is popular among organizations such as Xerox – known to invest in innovative learning experiences for their employees. In this specific instance, the “Stepping Up” application supports users in transferring their newly acquired skills to on-the-job activities called Quests, as well as connect to other users and social media while in the process. Further reading and more employee/ workplace gamification examples can be found on: Objectfrontier.com.

As we have seen, gamification is a complex trend whose impact reaches far beyond that of a good publicity stunt. With every new and exciting application, organizations are educating (The Accounted, Stepping Up), raising awareness (Reality Drop), creating engagement (Magnum Pleasure Hunt) and most importantly, securing their competitive advantage in the long run.

While research on how gamification will evolve is still subject to conflicting views e.g More than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by year-end 2014” vs. “80% of current gamified enterprise applications will fail to meet their objectives, due largely to poor design” (both sources: Gartner), innovation projects still have a lot to gain from leveraging people’s natural inclination to compete, show altruism or be motivated by a nifty progress bar.

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Oana-Maria Pop

Oana-Maria Pop

Oana is the Head of Open Innovation at HYPE and specializes in the science of durable intra- and inter-firm relationships/collaboration. In her work, she combines academic insights with industry exper
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