Spain gets gamified

III Gamification Game World Congress

From “El Pais”, Spain, 2014 (

The biggest gamification conference in Europe will be held this week in Barcelona: “Gamifi ? … qué?”.  Many people hear the word and have no idea of what this is about, reason why they turn to Google to find out. Over 2 Million results will display when looking up “gamification”, in comparison to the 400 that were available two years ago, according to gamification guru Mario Herger. The popularity of this technique, which consists in applying game strategies in non-ludic contexts such as work or health, has boosted since 2010. Spain is one of the countries where this discipline has been more successful, just behind the USA.

Sergio Jimenez is one of the founders of the III Gamification World Congress and a gamification pioneer in Spain: “We might rank second place as the country with the most gamification projects and the most gamification companies. These are very interesting times! The first conventions were held in Valencia and Madrid in 2012 and 2013. This year, the organizing committee chose a different venue in order to launch the event more internationally, which has been a big success. Over 600 people from the USA, Mexico, Chile, England and Germany, among other countries, have been participating at the different workshops and talks at the World Trade Center Auditorium. The conference comes to an end the upcoming Saturday with activities focused on education and health.

Jimenez recalls of the time when he started his own gamification blog: “I almost had not views at all.” Today, he is the author of the Gamification Model Canvas, a free methodology that helps companies create their very own gamification strategy, which has been applied over the last 9 months by 12,000 users, including Telefonica, BBVA and IBM.

Kevin Werbach, scholar at Wharton, Pennsylvania University’s Bussiness School, explains that the increasing popularity of this technique is due to the growth of the internet and new media technologies: “You don’t need games to be digital because online platforms for information-sharing really make life easier. Today’s generation grew up with games, even if not longer into gaming they find scoring and achievement systems familiar. This has really helped the expansion of gamification”. Werbach was the first academic teaching a gamification course in 2012 and his lectures are available online for free. Over 220,000 people in more than 160 countries have been following his updates.

Gamification vs the crisis

“We live in an global egamement crisis at work”, says Mario Herber, his consultancy, Gamification Enterprise Consultancy, collaborates with companies designing activities that afford the participation and engagement of the staff and the consecution of goals through the use of gamification. He says there are 3 kind of employees: the one that is committed, who thinks about his job even when his shift is over and comes over to work with solutions; the one who had motivation, who does what he has to do and then goes home; and the one who is persistently demotivated, who tries to sabotage his employer and causes money losses. “If an employee is demotivated is not his fault. The one responsible for creating an attractive environment is the head of the company”, he says.

Unlike usual work bonuses, gamification operates offering non-tangible awards. “They –bonuses- worked for a very short time and distracted the employee because then he focused more on the prize than on his work”- Herger says, who worked at SAP for more than 15 years. SAP has a platform for its employees for discussing about the business management program of the company. “The goal was to allow the software developers help each other in their work. To encourage the platform use, we gave a score to participants. This action encourages people to keep posting comments and leads them to become experts on what they do by sharing knowledge. Many people include their SAP Community Network score as part of their résumé and many employers have mentioned that this information has been very relevant when deciding on whom to hire.
Herger explains the importance of keeping the employee feeling valuable. This may be the reason gamification has been so successful in Spain: “At times like these, there is the need to bring new values to the enterprises in order to move forward”, says Joan Arnedo, professor at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, who has lectured and run workshops on gamification and is currently pursuing his PhD in Gamification.

Jimenez, who also develops different project at his very on company GameOn!, assures many Spanish companies have chosen gamification after analyzing their payroll departments’ files. “Their workforce was so affected by lay-off’s that they want to revert the damage. It is working now”- he says, but also states that gamification is only the “wrap-up” of the candy: “If the candy is bad, it will not work”.

Werbach agrees: “Some critics say gamification is only a way of exploitation, because it leads the employee to think he goes through something that is better than what reality actually is”. He warns that, before applying this kind of techniques, it is useful to make sure the employees are getting an extra value with the activity, otherwise the exercise will fail, because gamification can not cover up or surrogate other benefits such as a salary or bonuses. “If the work place is broken down, with employees living on frustration, and a management that does not match or sympathize with them, gamification will not solve anything. If the company cares not for the staff, gamification may even mess up things”.
(transl. by Enrique Perez, Leuphana Gamification Lab)


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