Friday, March 14, 2014

A Brief History of Gamification: Part II - The Name

This is the second post regarding the origin and evolution of gamification, following A Brief History of Gamification: Part I - The Origin. I invite others to contribute (with comments to the post) if something is missing and to correct what may be wrong or incomplete.

The Name

About the concept’s name, several authors claim that the term gamification, a neologism, was created in 2002 (Marczewski, 2012; Penenberg, 2013), or 2003 (Werbach and Hunter, 2012), or 2004 (Rughinis 2013) by Nick Pelling, a British programmer and video game designer. In fact, according to this alleged author, the word was created in 2002 (Pelling, 2011) and became public in 2003 in Pelling’s company website. By then, he intended to apply his gamification ideas to electronic devices. Others claim the term’s authorship for themselves at even earlier dates: “a trend I call gameification, which I first identified in the early eighties” (Burrus and Mann, 2012). Other sources indicate that the term was invented by Tim Chang from Norwest Venture Partners at an undefined date.

In digital media and according to Huotari and Hamari (2012), the term, written as gameification, was mentioned for the first time in 2008 in a blog post (Terrill, 2008). Werbach and Hunter (2012) note also that it was only in 2010 that the term was widely adopted. In fact, the term only started to be searched in Google on August, 2010 (Duggan and Shoup, 2013; Zichermann and Linder, 2013).

Before the term gamification came into widespread use on digital media, the underlying concept was also known as funware, a term proposed by Gabe Zichermann. Similar terms were associated with the concept like fun at work, serious games or games with a purpose (Rughinis, 2013), although these last two terms are in fact related with different concepts. Landers and Callan (2011) also use the term gameification, applying it in learning contexts. Besides all of these alternative terms, the word gamification prevailed even not being consensual.

The concept is seen by many as misleading and difficult to define (Anderson and Rainie, 2012; Raczkowski, 2013) and as Robertson (2010) claims “is the wrong word for the right idea”. Although game design is central to the concept of gamification, some game designers do not agree neither with the word nor with the concept (e.g. Bogost, 2011a). As long as the word became popular, criticism of gamification also made presence in digital media. Some game designers point that gamification is just a meaningless buzzword. Depreciative terms like exploitationware (Bogost, 2011b) or pointsification as proposed by Robertson, shows that both the word and the concept are not consensual.

See also:

A Brief History of Gamification: Part I - The Origin

A brief history of gamification, by Zac Fitz-Walter

Who coined the term gamification?


Anderson, A. and Rainie, L. (2012). The future of gamification. Technical report, Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. 

Duggan, C. and Shoup, K. (2013). Business Gamification for Dummies. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Burrus, D. and Mann, J. (2012). Gameification: Accelerating learning with technolog

Bogost, I. (2011a). Gamification is bullshit

Huotari, K. and Hamari, J. (2012). Defining gamification: A service marketing per- spective. In Proceeding of the 16th International Academic MindTrek Conference, MindTrek ’12, pages 17–22, New York, NY, USA. ACM.
Landers, R. and Callan, R. (2011). Casual social games as serious games: The psychology of gamification in undergraduate education and employee training. Serious Games and Edutainment Applications.
Marczewski, A. (2012). Gamification: A Simple Introduction. Marczewski, A.  

Pelling, N. (2011). The (short) prehistory of “gamification”

Penenberg, A. (2013). Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking. Piatkus. 

Robertson, M. (2010). Can’t play, won’t play

Raczkowski, F. (2013). It’s all fun and games... a history of ideas concerning gamification. In Proceedings of DiGRA 2013: DeFragging Game Studies.

Rughinis, R. (2013). Gamification for productive interaction reading and working with the gamification debate in education. In Proceedings of the Information Systems and Technologies (CISTI), 8th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies.

Terrill, B. (2008). My coverage of lobby of the social gaming summit

Werbach, K. and Hunter, D. (2012). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press. 

Zichermann, G. and Linder, J. (2013). The Gamification Revolution. McGraw-Hill Education.


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