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updated 5/25/2012 2:49:19 PM ET 2012-05-25T18:49:19

Whether or not you realize it, "gamification" has been a part of your life since childhood. You might recall, for instance, receiving rewards or prizes from your childhood dentist after each visit. For me, prizes were based on challenge-response behaviors. If I remained cavity-free (the challenge), I got to choose a stuffed animal to take home (the reward).

Gamification, when used online, brings that same element of challenge to an interactive task like downloading a case study or viewing a particular video, and some marketers have come to depend on these rewards to encourage engagement from customers and prospects alike.

If your business can incorporate rewards such as collecting points or badges, leaderboard rankings, receiving discounts and answering quizzes for free gifts and other incentives, you may be able increase engagement and drive action on your site, thus improving brand recognition and subsequently, your bottom line.

A question posed by a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center study  asks: What is the future for gamification? Will game mechanics and rewards programs that boost engagement continue to be a factor in consumer’s digital existence through 2020? 

The survey's participants included 1,021 "highly engaged" technology stakeholders and critics. In all, 53 percent believe gamification will continue to be widespread -- with some limits. These respondents said gamification would be heavily used not only in marketing and business but in education, health and other aspects of users’ lives by the next decade.

Still, 42 percent of respondents -- while admitting game use would remain an important part of communications -- believe it will not be important in everyday online activities for most people. In fact, these respondents said the concept probably wouldn’t advance except in some areas, and certainly not on an everyday basis.

Some proponents predict gamification will become part entertainment, part learning and part training. Two fun terms for this evolution come from the managing editor of the Cyborgology blog: “playbor” (play plus labor) and “weisure,” (work plus leisure).

Where do you think gamification is headed? Share your thoughts and respond to other readers in the comments below.

This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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