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Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals by Stephen Waddington, Rob Brown, Chartered Institute of Public Relations

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Chapter 8

Gamification: Engaging Audiences through Play

Sharon O'Dea

Gamification – the use of game thinking and mechanics to engage audiences – has been one of the most talked about trends in digital communications over the past two years. Used well, game techniques can be powerful tools to engage employees, customers and the public to change behaviours, develop skills and drive innovation.

First coined in the 1990s, the term has emerged in recent years as a way to describe interactive online design that plays on people's competitive instincts. It uses rewards to drive action, including virtual prizes such as points or badges; status indicators such as friend counts or leaderboards; and experience points such as achievement data and progress bars.

Using game mechanics to create incentives is nothing new. Creating competition by offering rewards and recognition is a motivational technique that's been employed for centuries – there are even examples in ancient Greek mythology. It's argued games tap directly into the cognitive and psychological predispositions of humans to engage in game-like behaviour that they find interesting, rewarding and engaging.

But for recent generations, games are big business, generating $78 billion in revenue in 2011.54 Each week, 3 billion hours are spent playing games.

Those in their 40s and under have grown up with gaming as a common form of entertainment. Games are now mainstream and highly sophisticated; current game thinking is the product of three ...

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