When technology is a game

The number of Internet users who play social games at least 15 minutes per week has doubled in the past two years.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

When you think about why a human being uses a software application, visits a Web site or is attracted to a particular piece of technology, the common thread in the ones that are successful is this: the interface.

And, as the world of consumer technology blurs with what is excepted within the business (aka work) environment, that increasingly means that applications are looking more and more like the most successful computer games.

A recent prediction from Gartner suggested that by 2014, more than 70 percent of companies worldwide will "gamify" at least one application. That is the idea of applying the elements of computer gaming applications to non-game environments in order to somehow encourage a sort of behavior. You can really see where this might occur within customer outreach and marketing activities, especially within social networks.

Said Gartner analyst Brian Burke:

"Gamification aims to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behavior, but it needs to implemented thoughtfully. Most attempts at gamification currently miss the mark, but successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy. The potential is enormous."

Separately, the Information Solutions Group recently released a lengthy analysis of social gaming trends that will give you further insight into this trend. For example, did you know that 41 percent of Internet users in the United States and the United Kingdom have played a social game in the past three months and that they play more than 15 minutes every week. That compares with 24 percent in January 2010.

Human behavior is notoriously tricky to predict but as your employees become more familiar with social games through networks such as Facebook or on their mobile devices (I dare you to defy that you have Angry Birds on your smartphone), it would be dangerous for small businesses not to consider the impact that games will have on application interfaces and design in the future. Indeed, since many SMBs support less internal infrastructure than larger enterprises, it is conceivable that they could jump into this more quickly than larger companies -- especially if they use applications delivered as a service.

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