Explicit versus Implicit Gamification: 5 lessons


Gamification is a major buzzword in the creative and design spaces of today’s world. However, despite every designer and project manager constantly going on about it, few understand the driving philosophy behind it. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not mean getting customers and employees to play games on your platform. Instead, we refer to the process of leveraging the lessons learned from game design and apply these to non-gaming purposes.

Origin of ‘gamification
Due to the unique role that games play in our society, gaming companies could not take the same function-focused approach to design and product creation that the rest of the world has been deploying since the dawn of capitalism. Games are designed to engage and entertain, not simply to perform functions for you.
This core purpose of gaming meant that games had to create a new approach to design, the human-focused approach. It is the attempt to imitate and reproduce this approach for non-gaming purposes that created the buzzword ‘gamification.’

Octalysis is seen by most people as the gold standard for how to create truly engaging user experiences.

Explicit vs. Implicit Gamification
Gamification can be summarized into two main types; explicit and implicit types. The main difference between the two is that with explicit gamification, users are aware they are playing a game and often have to opt into the game before they can achieve the non-gaming purpose of the designer. For instance, a math game that teaches children addition and subtraction achieves this by getting children to opt into playing the game. Of course, this means the quality of the game also matters.
On the other hand, implicit design leverages the human-centered design of games without asking users to play a game. Instead, it utilizes the gaming world’s understanding of core human drives to motivate users to achieve the design’s non-gaming purpose. Many companies accomplish this by incorporating gaming tools like live leaderboards, progress bars and countdown timers to motivate and inspire users towards the desired outcome of the design.

How to know when to use explicit vs. implicit
Both explicit and implicit design have a lot of real-world utility for business operations. Implicit gamification can improve performance and efficiency by inducing some healthy competition into the workplace. In contrast, explicit gamification can train new skills and sometimes change social constructs and norms.
Despite such lofty purpose, your gamification efforts will bear no fruit if you don’t know which situation calls for what. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to use explicit or implicit design:

The nature of your target demographic
Younger users typically prefer explicit over implicit design as long as the quality of the gamified experience is up to their standards. On the other hand, older users gravitate towards implicit gamified design.

Your type of industry
Preference for either explicit or implicit design varies depending on which industry you are in. The financial industry, for instance, is better suited to implicit gamification, while sectors like marketing gravitate towards explicit experiences.

Your mission objectives
The objectives of your project will also dictate whether or not you deploy explicit or implicit approaches. Study them before committing to either one.

Your resource level
Explicit gamification will take more time and money, especially if you develop a high-quality game. If you are resource-limited, implicit gamification might be a better option for you.

Are you interested in learning more about gamification and how to integrate it into your business practices? contact us today!

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