Will the G-word Derail Your Games Strategy?

Susan Hall

We know that games are being used in all sorts of ways, from SAP using them to woo analysts with its products to the U.S. government using them to deal with pirates or to debug weapons systems. They're being used to engage customers, train staff and solve myriad problems.


A Fast Company article from last summer quotes Gartner's prediction that by 2015, more than half of companies managing innovation processes will employ game mechanics and M2 Research says that the use of games will generate $1.6 billion in revenues in that time frame and will account for 23 percent of social media marketing budgets.


But in a post on his personal blog, Tyler Altrup, senior social media engagement manager at EMC, makes the case that the best way to pitch gamification to the suits in your organization is to ditch that word. (No need to convince me. It's second only to "anonymization" as my most hated made-up tech word.) Unfortunately, it's not going away. It made the short list for the Oxford English Dictionary 2011 word of the year. But that speaks to the strength of the trend.


Altrup says you don't need to convince people who understand the G-word - in effect, you're preaching to the choir. He writes:

The G-word, as you might imagine, does not mesh with a Fortune 500 world full of suits, cubicles, and earnings reports. If the word were a person it would be an incredibly high performer, but it might also show up late wearing jeans and sneakers. In the Bay Area, it would raise an eyebrow; on the East Coast, security would not let it in the building.

To people who don't understand it, you're left with two alternatives:

  1. Explain gamification, the concept, by explaining away gamification, the word, in every conversation.
  2. Define your own relevant terminology that communicates the true power of the concept.


You should choose No. 2, he says, and focus on the value you're trying to bring to the organization through games:

If you're the person fighting for gamification in your organization, you have to be prepared to fight for its potential, for its power, for its benefits-but not for the word itself. ...you will be far more successful if you focus on and communicate what you can deliver for your brand ...

EMC decided the proper language would be "Reward, Recognize, and Motivate," though Altrup doesn't go into much detail about how the company uses that. He makes the point, though, that it's important to speak to your particular audience. It would be a shame to let the G-word prevent your company from harnessing this powerful concept.

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