Gamification as a game changer for Finland

The Helsinki Node of EIT ICT Labs has chosen gamification as one its focus areas. Last week on the 14th of May, we saw an impressive group of around 30 leading game and gamification professors, designers and researchers discussing the future of gamification at the Helsinki Co-location Centre.

What is gamification?

Gamification refers to enhancing a service by providing gameful experiences. Steven Judge, founder of GameLayer, says that gamification itself is not a new concept. Loyalty card schemes such as frequent flyer points or hotel chain rewards are traditional forms of gamification with tens of millions of participants globally. Such schemes have served their purpose well in the past but have not been overly engaging and find it hard to compete with contemporary solutions.

One of the most promising application areas for gamification is health and wellbeing. The Finnish company HeiaHeia is a good example of providing a gamified service. HeiaHeia is a social web service that motivates one to exercise more. Their service lets you log all kinds of activities, keep a training log for yourself, as well as share activities with others.

Can gamification grow to be an industry of its own?

Currently, games and gamification do not have a common agenda as industries. Finland has great game companies like Rovio and Supercell and world leading research on gamification. As services represent an ever-growing part of our economy, the question to the group of experts was whether the potential in gamification lies in the competitive advantage it brings to the existing industries or whether gamification could be attractive as an industry of it’s own?

Steven Judge from GameLayer is convinced that the current game companies will not be the ones providing gamification solutions in the future, rather it will grow to be an industry of its own with its own dedicated providers. He believes Finland has great potential in gamification as the country is world class in gaming and provides structured education in game design. Steven founded his company in 2012 and is based in Helsinki.

Jari-Pekka Kaleva from European Game Developer Federation believes that serious games like WildChords that teaches guitar playing have a great potential. But according to Jari-Pekka the limitations of the platforms are hindering gamification in becoming mainstream. Another reason is the barriers of entry to specialized markets like military simulations or hospitals. Also public procurements e.g. in the education sector make it troublesome for small companies to break through.

Kai Huotari from EIT ICT Labs Helsinki and the host of the evening states that games and gamification are two separate fields. Games clearly scale, gamification does not - necessarily. Games provide gameful experiences. So does gamification but it should also bring added value to the core service that is being gamified. This requires knowledge and understanding of this business sector.

Kai continues that in this sense, gamification is much like consulting or advertising industries. However, games and gamification require skills in game design and therefore use partially the same talent pool. This is a big challenge for gamification companies as game industry is thriving in Finland at the moment. It is still too early to say how the field will evolve. Will gamification be a part of the arsenal offered by consulting companies, service design firms and communication agencies or will it evolve to be an independent industry.

What next?

This event was a good introduction to the subject and a good networking opportunity. In the fall 2013, EIT ICT Labs Helsinki will organize a series of events that will focus more closely on individual cases of gamification. Hopefully, through these case studies we will understand better opportunities that gamification provides.

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