There was a split verdict among experts about the scope and power of the gamification trend. Some 53% of the respondents to this survey said the use of game mechanics, feedback loops, and rewards to spur interaction and boost engagement, loyalty, fun, and/or learning will continue to gain ground between now and 2020. A number of survey participants qualified this by saying the adoption of gamification will continue to have some limits. Moreover, 42% said generally the trend will not advance except in specific realms. One anonymous survey respondent spoke for many, writing, “I expect more use of gaming-inspired ideas where that makes sense, but I don’t expect it to become a pervasive feature of many or most everyday activities for people using communications networks.”
Overall, a modest majority of the top tech experts participating in this survey believe game elements in some form will continue to play a role of gathering importance in the everyday activities of many of the people who are actively using communications networks. “The development of ‘serious games’ applied productively to a wide scope of human activities will accelerate simply because playing is more fun than working,” observed Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future.
Survey respondents framed their conception of “gamification” in highly varied ways, ranging—in game-name terms—from massively multiplayer online games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic to World of Warcraft (a “virtual world”) to Farmville (social network-based game) to Angry Birds (popular smartphone app) to Foldit, a game that researchers used to crowdsource a scientific solution to an AIDS question, to training simulations, to the “points” (sometimes only in terms of social currency) one gathers for action in social interactions online, including having the most Twitter or Facebook connections or mentions.
Some people said it’s “too soon” for highly interactive elements to enhance effectively online interactions for most people while others said we’re already there and we have been for a while. One anonymous respondent wrote, “Gamification is the same thing as an ‘incentive plan’ which was well documented (but not invented) by Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer. Our only innovation is to use technology to loosely affiliate more and more gaming metrics, tools, and interfaces with our day-to-day activities while simultaneously allowing us to review our progress and compete with our friends in just about everything… I win.” Another wrote, “We are already well on our way to a fully engaged gamification world. Our buying patterns, our health care, our communications, and our recreating and entertainment all have built-in gamification already—whether people recognize it or not! As the sophistication of the approach, and the improved access emerges, we’ll all be reaching for the next level and the most points.”
The people who expressed the most positive feelings about the likely use of game-like approaches in future interactivity see it as a design approach that will facilitate life experiences—one that is purposefully created not to feel like a game. For instance, Laura Lee Dooley, online engagement architect and strategist for the World Resources Institute, wrote: “Gamification will be a seamless function of our daily life—in other words, we won’t notice it as such. Perhaps the SAT/GRE and other tests will be changed from a paper-based tool to an online resource. To help doctors with diagnosing illness, users will be able to answer a series of questions about symptoms online. This will be mashed up with their digital medical records so doctors can be more effective in their treatments.”
After being asked to choose one of the two 2020 scenarios presented in this survey question, respondents were also asked, “Explain your choice and share your view of gamification and implications for the future. What new approaches to information sharing do you anticipate will be finding their footing by 2020? What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate?”
is a selection from the hundreds of written responses survey participants shared when answering this question. About half of the expert survey respondents elected to remain anonymous, not taking credit for their remarks. Because people’s expertise is an important element of their participation in the conversation, the formal report primarily includes the comments of those who took credit for what they said. The full set of expert responses, anonymous and not, can be found online at http://www.elon.edu/predictions. The selected statements that follow here are
grouped under headings that indicate some of the major themes emerging from the overall responses. The varied and conflicting headings indicate the wide range of opinions found in respondents’ reflective replies.