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What awareness gamification programs can learn from Pokemon Go

Ira Winkler | Aug. 9, 2016
Pokemon Go demonstrates why most awareness gamification efforts really aren’t gamification.

Pokemon Go has become a social icon. It is the subject of major news stories, the butt of many jokes, and has lately become a foundation for many vendors equating the game to their own gamification efforts.

Most people do not understand gamification, and inevitably vendors and people misuse the term and overuse it inappropriately. Gamification is essentially rewarding people for exhibiting a desired behavior. It is not merely creating a game for people to play, nor making training a game.

At the moment, the only intended gamification of Pokemon Go is to encourage people to spend money within the game. There are potentially future uses of the game, such as to get people to spend money at partner vendors. For now however, most gamification is exploiting the phenomenon by third parties.

Many businesses that are within range of PokeStops purchase “lures” that can attract patrons, as well as Pokemon. Patrons are rewarded with the potential to catch more Pokemon by visiting, and ideally patronizing, the business. The desired behavior is patronizing the establishment, and the reward is the opportunity to catch more Pokemon.

Pokemon is also a great way to get people outdoors and exercising. A large part of the game requires that people travel to real world locations. To hatch eggs, which is a significant aspect of the game, people have to walk or bike at a pace that is not reasonable to achieve without physical effort. As a matter of fact, people are generally rewarded for traveling faster through walking or biking. The game discounts distance traveled at speeds that might be achieved if traveling by car.

Anecdotally, you can see people out and about, playing Pokemon Go, who would otherwise apparently be playing video games in their home. Corporate wellness programs would be strongly advised to take advantage of the game’s phenomenon, and encourage people for reporting the distance traveled.

When I consider most of the self-proclaimed security awareness gamification efforts, I see that they do not truly understand what exactly is gamification. Gamification is not providing information through a game. Gamification is again rewarding people for exhibiting the desired behaviors in actual circumstances.

First, lets examine what is gamification. Gamification is the creation of a reward system. As I previously wrote, there are four required characteristics of a gamification program:

  1. There is a defined goal with defined rewards
  2. There are well established rules on how to achieve the goal and rewards
  3. There is feedback as to where people stand in achieving the goals
  4. Participation is voluntary

In Pokemon Go, the goal is to level up and catch Pokemon. You are informed how many points you need to level up, how to earn points, and how to catch Pokemon. This includes visiting real-world locations and walking/biking/skating/etc certain distances. You are constantly informed how many points you have earned, which Pokemon you caught, and where you are compared to your goals. And, nobody is forcing anyone to play the game.

 

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