Oh the Games People Play Now

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Do you know anything about “gamification?” If not, you should.

I first became aware of this tech term just a few weeks ago after Randy Johnston wrote a tech-future article for Intuit. He discussed gaming and the way some major software providers to the accounting profession are using the concept of “games” to lead users through their programs.

As we all do – once we become aware of something new we become more focused on discovering the concept whenever we can – I heard Randy’s tech presentation at the AICAP TECH+/Practitioners Symposium in Las Vegas, and just recently, read an article about gamification in the new Ragan Report. I urge you to read the Ragan Report article; it’s a good explanation of what gamification is all about (and, for the record, spell-check isn’t picking up that term!).

I don’t know who actually originated the idea of teaching a user how to user software by making it seem like a game, so I looked it up on Wikipedia (everything is on the Internet) and found a good definitionA core strategy for gamifying is to provide rewards for players for accomplishing desired tasks.Types of rewards include points, achievement badges or levels, the filling of a progress bar and providing the user with virtual currency.Turns out the term first came to light in 2002, but didn’t take off until 2010.

Why is gamification important to public relations? First, I think the concept is brilliant. Who doesn’t like to play games? Even the kid in all of us enjoys a thrilling game of Candyland now and then. While I’ve never been a “gamer” in context of Wii and Xbox games, I can certainly appreciate what the providers are doing.

I think this is also a great PR tactic for providers to endear themselves to their users. I can’t say for certain that the games included in some of the programs are truly “fun,” but they do seem, to me, to make the user experience more delightful than the rudimentary click here-click there technique.

Remember that one giant part of any great PR program is to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. I urge the accounting software providers who include games in their programs to stand up and talk about it.

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