Gamification is the use of strategies and techniques used by game designers, in situations other than games to get people to treat those situations more like a game. People confuse serious games, game theory, video game design, and gamification as one and the same. These could be things such as fun, rules, competition, points, and so on, and then applying them to non-game situations.
Gamification differs from serious games. Serious games are considered games, but they are not designed for the purpose of having fun. They are for more practical uses. Flight simulators, for example, have all the mechanics, technologies, and design processes found in a flight video game. Developers, however, create the video game for entertainment purposes, while the flight simulator has a more serious purpose.
Gamification pertains to the structure and design process applied in good game design, whether it is a video game, board game, or a serious game. Gamification is simply a set of tools and materials used in game design, which also applies to jobs other than creating a game.
One huge growth area in the gamification arena is gamifying education. There is a lot of promise in applying gamification to the learning process.
If we were to think about what a school is, we would quickly conclude that school itself is a game. It has all the classic game elements built into our traditional school system already. In almost every type of learning environment, you will find the idea of a reward system. This reward system could be in the form of grades or grade point average. Schools reward those with good performance with higher grades as opposed to someone who does not perform as well.
Schools also have a penalty system in place. If a learner doesn't perform to a certain standard, the school penalizes him/her. It holds him/her back, ostracizes him/her, and in some cases removes him/her from the community. School is probably the most widely played game in the world. Unfortunately, most of the people don't see much fun in school today. Hence, the idea of school as a game is virtually nonexistent. You can expect this change, however, over the coming decades as we make our learning environments more engaging.