From G.I. Joe to Pokemon GO: A Look at Gamification

In Lifestyle by UFSocial Staff

by UFSocial contributor John McEwen

It is safe to say that I thought I knew what gamification is, but I truly did not have a clue. I also had no idea how deep the concept runs through our everyday lives.

Last summer, like many others I jumped on the Pokemon Go freemium bandwagon. The truth is, it got me out and about exploring my city. I initially thought that this was a great example of gamification as it was a video game platform being used to make money, because in the words of South Park – Freemium Isn’t Free. However, since gamification is defined in “Bunchball – Gamefication 101,” as the application of game mechanics into non-game activities and processes, I am not so sure that Pokemon Go qualifies, even if it does employ levels, challenges, and leaderboards.

The best example of gamification in my life that does follow the definition is my Fitbit. Right now, I am in third place of a weekly challenge with 30,000+ steps, and I just received my Skydiver badge for climbing 1,000 lifetime floors.

At first the idea of earning virtual badges and trophies seemed incredibly silly, but after reading “Bunchball – Winning with Gamification” it now makes more sense. The fact is my mother, my girlfriend, and I jokingly share our Fitbit accomplishments with each other which in turn this deepens our engagement with the product.

As a professional example, we use an assortment of simulation systems in the military to assist in training. For example, we have tank crew trainers that are exact replicas of the inside of our tank turret that are employed to practice crew drills.  This allows us to hone our skills in a safe and relatively inexpensive environment before we take the tanks to the field.  We can engage targets just like we would on the gunnery range or on operations, and the system assesses the crew’s reaction times and engagement precision.  Each crew is scored, and of course we compare results to see who is the best.

The use of these simulators as a competition is a great example of the application of the three key elements of the Expectancy Theory as described in “Gamification: The Science and Software to Make You More Productive”.  When the three elements of the theory: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence are present in an activity people are motivated to work harder. In this way, the fundamentals of the competitive spirit and mastering our profession drives people to be their best.

Now that I have a better understanding of gamification, it seems appropriate to discuss my earliest memory of a related activity.

It was called the MANTA! That stands for Marine Assault Nautical Transport Air-driven – cool right? It was 1984 and you could not just go out to the store and purchase the MANTA.  It was limited edition and you needed to mail away two Flag Points and $1.75.

How did you get those Flag Points?

Well, you got them when you purchased GI Joe action figures. My friends and I loved to play with GI Joe’s. So, with the help of my mom I sent off my two Flag points and $1.75 of allowance and waited.

I should say that most of my friends had many more action figures, vehicles and weapon systems than I did, but none of them had the MANTA.  I am not sure why not, the picture made it look so cool. I was going to be the King of the sandbox when this thing arrived!! But when it did, I was so disappointed, it was a piece of junk.

The worst part is that to this day I have never seen a soldier go into combat on a windsurfer.

Editorial credit: Matthew Corley /

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