Gamification or Not?

I have a six-year-old niece who, every time I see her, asks for my iPhone as her version of a greeting and saying she’s missed me.  As it seems for many kids these days, she too is obsessed with the games that my phone has to offer. Within the last year, she’s stocked up more and more of the applications that allow her to make Cookie Dough Bites, decorate a cupcake, or create the perfect Icee. And I’m not ashamed to say that I too create my own masterpieces with the hope that I can transfer my success at virtual baking into an actual ability to bake. I recently read an article that discusses how these games are in fact used to advertise to kids and wondered if this could be construed as gamification. I’ve decided that it could. Here’s why:

I know that typical gamification involves game-like elements in a non-game setting in order to influence behavior. In this case, however, what is being used as the influencer is actually a game. Kids (and myself makes at least one adult) fulfill tasks like rolling out dough, decorating, covering in chocolate, and packaging up for sale, all the while earning points and achievements towards a relatively simple objective.

The non-game setting is, of course, advertising. The games are used to advertise to kids. What kid can create their own shipment of Cookie Dough Bites or their own pretzel without developing a craving? Melinda Champion, vice president of marketing at J&J Snack Foods, which makes SuperPretzel and Icee drinks says, “If you get the kids saying, ‘Mom, I would love a SuperPretzel,’ mom will often buy it for them.”

So it seems we have the game-like elements from the games, the non-game setting with the advertisements, and the influenced behavior from the resulting craving. The young kids in our lives aren’t just creating great snacks; they are creating a desire, too. I say it’s gamification. Let me know what you think: gamification or not?

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