Gamification is the application of game theory concepts and techniques to non-game activities. Game theory is a branch of mathematics that seeks to understand why an individual makes a particular decision and how the decisions made by one individual affect others.

Although the word “game” is used in everyday speech, it can be difficult to formally define. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a game is “an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.” In other words, a game is fun.  A second entry for the word, however, explains that a game can also be “a procedure or strategy for gaining an end.” 

Generally speaking, the overreaching goal of gamification is to engage the participant with an activity he finds fun in order to influence his behavior.  

In marketing, a gamification initiative might address the cognitive and emotional aspects of game theory as well as the social ones by including a system of rules for participants to explore through active experimentation and discovery, awarding points or badges for levels of participation, displaying leaderboard scores to encourage competition and offering prizes so that participants have a chance to win something of value.

See also: social CRM, coalition loyalty program,  social media marketing, mobile marketing

This was last updated in June 2012

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