Book Review: Gamification at Work
Guest post by: Chris Stair, Intern
When Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” he left out this book; it plays its part very well. Gamification at Work by Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger is not Finnegan’s Wake or even Don’t Make Me Think, but it is a straightforward text about how to gamify processes for corporations with the majority of the pertinent examples being pulled from the authors’ personal experiences at SAP. This book is for the layperson or the manager, and for these people it is a comprehensive introductory text for applying gamification.
This book does not explicate new and revolutionary ways to gamify products unless you take the Player Centered Design chapter to be anything more than an interpretation of Self Determination Theory. I went to the school that originated SDT: an organismic meta-theory which is currently the most applied theory in psychology.
It is nice to see that GAW uses SDT wholeheartedly; a particularly interesting section describes how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are suited to varying levels of cognitive tasks. What does this mean? It means that badges and points facilitate ‘extrinsic motivation’, which is suitable for getting people to do simple things like complete the skills section on their LinkedIn Profile. GAW and SDT tell us we need to foster ‘intrinsic motivation’ to get people to overcome complex tasks like learning to use a new interface. Intrinsic motivation can be enhanced by giving users a sense of autonomy, providing a sense of belonging or inspiring curiosity, among other methods. We UXers may already know this, but we now have written text to reference.
Honestly, it is more of a reflection on society, than this book, that T-shirt rewards, electronic badges and social media outlets are pretty much the extent to which large corporations are currently willing to gamify their services. But some of the examples are novel like True Office; the compliance-related game that creates office-environment puzzles the player solves on topics ranging from sexual harassment to money laundering. If any task needs gamification it is compliance. And who could forget the timesheet from Slalom Consulting that insults you when you fill it out late.
The book does not delve, but it does introduce. Judging by the state of gamification today vs. the predictions for the next three years; the field will need more introducing than delving, so GAW gets points for playing the role of the harbinger.
Chapter 10 ‘Leveling Up’ contains a list of notable figures as well as online resources to consult for more in-depth information. These authors believe what they’re talking about: engaging the reader is of paramount importance and participation leads to engagement, to this end, each chapter ends with a blank page to jot notes. If you, the reader, are so moved you could spend 1,000 hours tracking down all the materials that this book references. On the other hand if you remain unmoved GAW is a mere two hours of your time (or the equivalent of one Mad Men premiere).
All in all, I would say this book is worth a look because it plays its part. It does a good job of touching on all the important elements of gamification – player types, creating a suitable mission, motivating the players, constructing game mechanics, management of the system and legal/ethical considerations, without becoming mired in details. I think for a manager new to the concept of gamification the book is a refreshing, quick read that can provide well rounded perspective without taking up much time, or challenging potentially scarce mental resources. For the experienced UXer it provides a comprehensive look at the main body of work surrounding gamification.
Sound like the book for you? Get free access to the online book Gamification at Work!