Yu-kai Chou is a Gamification Pioneer(since 2003) & International Keynote Speaker/Lecturer for entities such as Stanford University, Google etc. He is rated a Top 5 Gamification Guru & is a Partner at the Enterprise Gamification Consultancy

The team at Playday caught up with the Guru to gain his insights on the world of Gamification. Here is the full interview:-

    • Being a pioneer of the Gamification Industry since 2003, how has gamification changed in the last 10 years?  
    • When I first started in gamification, it’s a non-existent field. When I told people I want to harness the power of games to make the world better, they thought I was creating excuses to play more games. During that time, an emerging industry called Serious Games came about, which are games that are built for training and other useful purposes. Many of them are virtual simulations, which was prompted by the temporary popularity of Second Life.About 2008, some companies started to pioneer the term “gamification” but it was still a relatively slow grind. It only started picking up more after 2010, primarily with the marketing pushes of Gamification.co as well as platforms such as Bunch Ball and Badgeville. Companies started to pay attention more to it, and individuals wanted to proclaim it as their newest expertise. Because gamification was popularized by the organizations above, most people saw gamification as points, badges, leaderboards, as well as reward structures. After 2013, there became a lash back of gamification professionals talking about how these things aren’t the true sources of what makes games fun, which made frameworks and systems like Octalysis, 4Keys2Fun, and Gameful Design more popular.


    • Has it become easier to convince decision makers of the advantages of gamification?
    • In the earlier days it was harder. Nowadays it has been a lot easier, especially since all my clients approach me now for consulting.The key to convincing decision maker is to be reasonable, precise and back up your arguments with numbers. Gamification, if implemented smartly, definitely delivers great results. Luckily nowadays there are ample great gamification case studies with ROI numbers attached to them. I made a list of 90+ of these case studies on my blog and it has been one of my favourite pages. Once companies sees that serious enterprise firms like SAP or Cisco use gamification and achieved great returns, they are usually more open to it.


    • Just like ‘Being Social’ has become the new buzzword in Companies the last few years, do you think the coming years will be a ‘Being Gamified’ decade for large enterprises?
    • Gamification is still a word that many companies are afraid of, not many people know that and in serious large enterprises new things are met with criticism and doubt. Since the purpose of gamification is engagement, some companies will still stay away from using word ‘gamification’ and stay with ‘engagement’. The key is to make sure there are enough gamification examples that actually are well designed, because with all the blatant PBL shoving, companies will easily say, “Oh, we tried the points stuff and it didn’t’ work. I guess gamification is just a fad.” This is why I so passionately evangelize for GOOD gamification design.


    • We really enjoyed your talk at the Gamified 2013 conference in Bangalore. Although gamification is still nascent in India, how do you see the future of gamification in India?
    • It’s odd, because I seem to have the most fans in India. When I did my workshop for Accenture online, their India offices by far had the most amount of attendees, followed by the United States. It seems like there is a lot of space to grow in gamification in the India market, and many of my client leads come from India.
      Unfortunately, because it has been such a nightmare for me to obtain visas to India, I tend to turn down these requests.


    • With your years of experience, what advice would you give new companies seeking to create a niche for themselves in the gamification space?
    • I would say: study your 8 Core Drives in Octalysis. Understand what actually makes games fun as opposed to just copying the shell of the game mechanics and elements. Back up everything you say with data. Use many case studies of successful large enterprises in the US. Focus on a specific niche within gamification. Do a lot of personal branding and knowledge sharing of all the things you read about gamification.


    • Critics of gamification say that it produces unintended user behavior and raise a lot of ethical/privacy issues. What are your thoughts about that?
    • Gamification leading to unintended user behaviour (such as people trying to game the system) is just a result of bad gamification design. That doesn’t mean gamification is bad. In regards to ethics, I get asked a lot, “Is gamification a mild form of manipulation?”  Yes and no. If you think about it, saying “please” is a mild form of manipulation. You weren’t going to do something for me, and now you do, even though nothing tangibly changed. I just made you “feel better” for doing it. And saying thank you is a small reward. Again, rewards can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. No one seems to have a problem with people saying Please and Thank You. It’s the proper thing to do.I believe it’s about being transparent and allowing people to opt-in to the experience you designed (when people walk into a Casino, they know the cost of “fun” is that they are statistically screwed against the house).Hypnosis is the ultimate form of manipulation, but it’s ok because it is transparent and opt-in.
      In the big Gamification case studies, when metrics increase by 100%, it’s not 100% of the people signing up. It’s just something like user signup went from 10% to 20%. Still 80% of the users choose to say no. Gamification is not mind control. It’s just getting the people on the fence to decide because you just made the experience sweeter or more interesting.


    • You surely have a stranglehold on at-least the Top 3 positions of the Gamification Gurus- Leaderboard. Could you please share your tips for maintaining such consistency? :)
    • Hmm, at the beginning I really cared about climbing that leaderboard as a game. But eventually, I stopped thinking about it and just focused on sharing great knowledge and engaging with my audience. I naturally stay at the Top 3 but part of it is because I started building my social media influence very early on as an entrepreneur. At the end of the day, it’s just a fun game. What truly matters is whether you can design projects that drive motivation and behaviour.



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