Gamification is most simply described as the use of game mechanics in real life scenarios. By using concepts found in games, the goal is to engage with people more effectively, harnessing the power of these game mechanics to enhance learning, communication and motivational outcomes.

As a concept it first gained widespread recognition when it took the South by Southwest Festival (Austin, Texas) by storm in 2011, generating much excitement about its potential for the future. Since then it is fair to say that it has struggled to live up to that early hype. However, it is only a nascent technology and industry and academia are still researching how best to harness its potential.

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This set the scene for the Gamification in the Events Industry workshop which took place at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. By bringing together academics, researchers and industry leaders, it provided an open forum to discuss how gamification is currently being used and how it might be applied in the future to greater effect. The relevance to the events industry is clear through the potential for better engagement with delegates, something which could be of real value to organisers and attendees alike.

During the first half of the workshop, Lord Stephen Carter, the former CEO of Ofcom, helped frame the current relevance of gamification globally. He highlighted projects where corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems are currently using gamification with staff, helping to drive innovation and in training scenarios. One startling statistic is that globally we spend more than 3 billion hours per week playing computer games. Demographics show that the average age of gamers is continuing to increase and that we are also nearing equilibrium in the gender balance of players. Gaming is clearly no longer the reserve of children; it is a universal phenomenon with revenues bigger than the movie industry.

The keynote talk was delivered by Nick Brown, board member for TIGA (the trade association for independent game developers), member of the UK Government’s Video Games Skills Council and advisor to the Future Innovation in Television Taskforce around Computing in the Creative Industries. Nick was the first to admit that generally speaking, gamification was not being done well at present and that it perhaps suffered negative perceptions from confusion with the gambling industry. However, he stressed what a superb educational tool games can be, and that done well, gamification can create an enormously valuable fusion between fun and productivity.

Nick outlined some of the core mechanics at a basic level, referring to points systems, leader boards, achievements and progress indicators. The key thing though is that these elements need to be used very intelligently in order to create real value and this is where the challenge lies, particularly for the events industry.

The rest of the workshop looked at this challenge in more detail. Professors Kiran Fernandes and Peter Cowling, along with their research team, outlined how they are exploring the use of gaming and big data for social and scientific goals. One avenue of interest for them is the role the events industry could play in this. Helping them in this task are a team of academic institutions, industry bodies, games developers and start-ups, working together to provide the expert knowledge and experience necessary to create the innovative solutions required.

It is clearly early days in this endeavour but having explored this subject at a basic level, it is evident how much potential there is for event organisers. Gamification is certainly an area to monitor for the future, with opportunities for the events industry to help drive its progress and innovation.

To discuss any of the areas covered in this update, please feel free to contact Alastair, we would be delighted to hear what you think of gamification and its potential for the events industry.

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AuthorAlastair Cotton