G@M!F#CAT!ON: A Retrospect on GSummit 2014

By Chad Otis, Executive Creative Director

Gamification. There, I said it. It’s come to be a bit of a dirty word in the industry as it elicits visions of ham-handed point systems meant to create loyalty with brands. And, too often gamification (the application of game mechanics to solve non-game issues) is still used this way.

But, let’s talk about the evolution of this approach and how the practice of creating meaningful engagement with people encompasses so much more than points, leaderboards and badges.

This year’s GSummit (originally titled Gamification Summit in its inaugural 2011 gathering – you see even its organizers have shied away from the moniker) drew a variety of speakers, including multiple PhDs – specializing in everything from behavioral psychology to astrophysics.

Not only did these speakers lend a certain gravitas to the conference, they dug into the science of what drives human behavior within experiences – like how to get the cortex and limbic systems to communicate and how people react to experiences on a biochemical level, releasing dopamine, serotonin and endorphins when they complete tasks, help someone in need, or lose themselves in the flow of a game.

Celebrity scientist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (of FOX Television’s recent series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey) was the final speaker. A self-admitted non-gamer, he addressed a full house on his passion for making very complex science not just accessible, but fun and engaging for the masses. This was especially interesting to me since Smashing Ideas recently launched the iPad app, Snapshots of the Universe for Stephen Hawking, where we applied our own engagement science, known as motivational design, to some of the same lofty theories. The inclusion of Dr. Tyson’s perspective and the perspectives of so many other non-traditional marketing folks in the conference is significant. It recognizes that creating active engagement with an audience can be completely divorced from point systems and game-like goals. We agree, it’s much more than that.

As with Snapshots of the Universe, any experience we create means we partner with our clients to understand their business and customer goals, then define a solution that leverages our eighteen years of motivational design expertise. This leads to defining and implementing engagements that motivate behaviors at the right place and time, all while creating a positive connection with the experience at hand.

Interested in seeing motivational design in action? Click here to download Snapshots of the Universe on iTunes.

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