Why Gamification?

Source Image: https://pixabay.com/en/psp-playstation-video-game-handheld-1335960/. Labeled available for noncommercial use. 

Source Image: https://pixabay.com/en/psp-playstation-video-game-handheld-1335960/. Labeled available for noncommercial use. 

Ever since ‘gamification’ has entered our vernacular in 2002, the term has become both a buzz word and an intimidating proposition. How does one ‘gamify’ the art experience, what does that mean, and is it a good thing? To put your mind at ease, gamification is not one of the four horseman of the technological age and shortened attention spans - so don’t take using it as an admission of defeat. Providing gamified solutions simply means allowing a new way to engage with and accomplish the goals we already have by using game mechanics.  Arts organizations such as The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Human Festival for New American Plays have discovered ways to use gamified solutions to increase attendance and engagement. The infinitely wise Mary Poppins captures the power of gamification with the words: 

“In every job that must be done/ there is an element of fun./ You find the fun, and snap!/ The job’s a game.”

Let's break it down:


One can use gamification to accomplish three objectives: (1) to change behaviors, (2) to develop skills or (3) to drive innovation. Your first step should be to identify which of these objectives applies to the user’s goals. UX is king in gamification, and if your game doesn’t help the user achieve their own goals, they simply won’t play.  

It’s important to keep in mind that the game your organization develops will not compete with every video game on the market. Remember, people will turn to your gamified solution as a tool to achieve their own goals. Video games, on the other hand, are a form of entertainment; they aren’t used to accomplish some external purpose. You can still look toward video games for inspiration of game mechanics (avatar creation, point system, leader boards), but don’t expect your finished product to convert the Call of Duty market.   

Taking a moment to understand your gamification needs will pay dividends, because a well thought out digital model provides a lot of advantages. First and foremost, you'll need to decide the intended scale for your game. A game a person can play in house, like the interactives at Gallery One , may only be able to support 4-5 players at a time. However, even the most flexible game (such as a scavenger hunt) would have to adhere to your facility’s capacity limit. Depending on how your game is designed, a mobile game can allow thousands of people to play at a time. That means more involvement, engagement, and reach.  

The digital model is also more flexible in regards to space and time. Space, meaning distance between players and the institution, is important no matter the size of your organization. If you are an institution with a national or global audience, you likely want to connect people wherever they are, not only when they are in town. If you primarily serve a local audience, space still comes into play with simple obstacles, such as finding parking or a babysitter. If people can interact from a distance, the points of entry increase, leading to amplified engagement. If the game has a cooperation or competition component, allowing for inter-player interaction, then time flexibility is a must. Digitally, Tim can engage and play at 9am and still interact with Susan wo plays at 6pm. You may want to look for mobile digital solutions if you expect the game to take an extended period of time. Games that can be played, enjoyed, and finished in one thirty-minute session can sit in-house. Games that are on-going and involve multiple sessions should allow flexibility for user schedules.  

Want to learn more about how to design gamified solutions for your arts organization? Stay tuned for more discussions about how to utilize reward systems, competition, social media and other strategies to leverage your games for maximum success.  Let us know in the comments below if your arts organization is using gamification!