Gamification vs Games

I’ve seen several effects of the JetBlue Badges launch. First of all the immediate reaction from several travel industry and marketing specialists was negative. Second, comparisons were made (to other projects). Third, the words gamification and game were used on occasion.

As JetBlue Badges is an airline gamification program I would like to comment on comparisons to marketing game projects in the airline industry.

One example that was used is the Virtual Pilot marketing game launched a while back by Lufthansa (available here). I will not dive in to detail the project, but please notice I used the word “game” to describe it.

Looking at the discussion where this example was used I realized that the difference between games and gamification is an issue worth addressing. To make sure the understanding is there for any future reference.

The theoretical differentiator lies in the random nature of a game and predictable nature of gamification. The reason for this difference arises from a difference in desired effect and the purpose.

Games are built primarily to entertain. Randomness introduces the much required element of thrill and suspense. Imagine playing dice with billiards.

Lufthansa VP Screenshot 2

From the screenshot it’s hard to tell, game or gamification?

Gamification is used to drive behavior. Positive reinforcement is built on dependable feedback loops between the desired behavior and the reward. Creating a feedback loop that has a random component (as in a Game) erodes the feeling of satisfaction (of the reward) and in the long run, weakens the motivation.

Let me bring this short explanation back to the Virtual Pilot game. The game itself uses random behavior to create thrill. There is no tangible (considering the underlying existing process) reward for achieving a higher score and the setting is not an existing process. All of which are required for the experience to be called a gamification project. The comparison is invalid.

Wrapping up, it is possible to use both games and gamification for marketing. The game will be used as short-term means to inspire strong positive emotions tied to the brand, product, service. The gamification program should aim to change long-term behavior and entice participation.

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