Gamification Europe is a 2-day gamification event that can give you all the necessary tools to use gamification in your organizations. Exceptional speakers at a great venue in the heart of Amsterdam make sure you got everything you need to go back to your everyday jobs and harness the power of games. We interviewed with the senior member of Gamification+ and organizer of the event—Vasilis Gkogkidis—to find more information about this exciting annual event.
Hi Vasilis! Could you please tell us about yourself and your life?
My name is Vasilis Gkogkidis, I am from Thessaloniki, Greece and I work in a company called GAMIFICATION+ as a gamification designer and a Lego Serious Play facilitator. I am also one of the organisers of the Gamification Europe conference and a PhD researcher at the University of Sussex so my life is quite busy! I spend some days a week working in the industry and some working at the University of Brighton and Sussex doing research and teaching.
Could you please tell us about your experience with gamification?
I learned about gamification while doing my masters at the University of Brighton and I liked the idea of adding games and game thinking to everyday processes. I always thought that “serious” business does not need to be so serious. Including playfulness and creativity in a business situation is very important no matter where you work and what you do. I have been working in gamification for the past 2 and a half years and I have to say that first of all the community has been very welcoming and friendly to me. Because gamification is a new concept everyone is trying to learn more about and help each other improve and excel. That is one of the reasons we organise Gamification Europe, to bring the community together once a year and learn from each other. I have also seen a growing interest and also investment in gamification from large organisations and companies.
Is it possible to define gamification? How?
That’s a tricky one! There have been a few different definitions along the way but I guess Sebastian Deterding’s is the one that is more prominent in academic literature and says that gamification is “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”. Asking companies and people that work in different industries the answers can be different. Reality is that people in companies have a larger umbrella for what gamification is. Researchers like Marigo Raftopoulos say that when they asked people from different industries if they use gamification and what exactly did they do that their answers included things like workshops on team building, business games, serious games, escape rooms, Lego Serious Play, simulations and other activities that are playful and helped them in some way or another be more productive in their jobs. I recently had a meeting with someone that has created a game to teach elementary school kids about mummification! He also considers himself to be working in the gamification industry that focuses on education. The research that I just started at the University of Sussex will try and answer some of these questions so I hope that sometime in the near future I will have a better answer for this question!
What are your favorite games and why do you like them? What you've learned from them?
That is a great question because my answer always changes depending on what game I am playing that period. So last week I went and bought Survive, a strategy survival board game where you control a small tribe of 10 people and you need to save them from a crumbling island. The more people you get on safe grounds the more points you get and win the game. It’s a great game to facilitate conversations about the ever changing environment around us and how we reach with an emerging strategy to tackle a problem or get the most out of an opportunity. This happens in companies all the time where you have to quickly adapt to new data that come from the environment. A game with a similar effect and logic behind it is Banner Saga, a great computer game from Stoic Studio. I am also starting to go into Dungeons and Dragons again which is the most classic role-playing game ever created. Great fun playing with friends, family or co-workers in a game that having a good time is the only goal and there are no winners and losers. It’s really interesting to play games and think what elements of these games could be used for something outside having a good time and entertain ourselves.
As a successful gamification expert, what is your advice to gamification enthusiasts?
Start small! Prototype and playtest as much as possible. No matter what game or gamification or whatever product you are making, the way that you think people will react to your project is seldom the way that people react to your project. Test all your designs with small teams, in house, with friends and families, meetup teams, university students whatever you can do to make sure that your project works as you want it to work and people are behaving the way you want them to behave. Another thing is always listen and use the feedback that these testers will give you. Never reject this feedback no matter how harsh it can be sometimes. Finally try and apply gamification and game design to things you care about. I have done some work in education for example that was very fulfilling because I care about education a lot.
What are the main reasons behind the gamified platforms' failure?
I wouldn’t say that every gamified platform has failed that is a bit much to say. I know a lot of companies that are doing great selling gamified platforms and I keep seeing more and more popping up. Coming from a computer science background I would say that as with all software there are some that will fail for different reasons. Maybe they don’t have enough functionality or sometimes they crush and the users get frustrated and end up not using them. Other times it may be that the UI is not user friendly and people end up moving to something that is more user friendly and offers a better User Experience. I think that platforms will improve a lot in the near future and people will create innovative solutions because nowadays the knowledge on gamification is increasing a lot. Keep in mind that making software is a time and resource intense type of work and it may take some years but eventually the platforms will catch up with the theories, designs and ideas that people have in the gamification community.
What is Gamification Europe?
Gamification Europe is an annual international conference about gamification that my company organises and we try and bring the gamification community together and talk about how to improve and learn. We invite speakers that have run an interesting project and want to talk about it, researchers that have found something interesting about gamification. People that attend are usually either gamification designers and consultants that want to network and learn more and improve in gamification, people that want to get into designing gamification, companies that have created a gamified tool and want to show it to the world and get feedback and finally companies that are looking into getting in gamification and want to know exactly what it is and if it’s the right fit for them.
What is the most appealing thing about the gamification community?
It’s a very interesting community because it consists of people from all over the world. I think last year at Gamification Europe we had speakers from around 15 different countries. Gamification is an idea that has spread and is being implemented in different contexts and cultures worldwide. Last year we had a panel about the cultural differences in all these different cultures that gamification is being applied and the insights were amazing. It’s also a very friendly and quite open community as most people are very passionate about what they do and they are willing to help you if you need help with something. Spreading knowledge is another important part of a new industry and I think everyone is trying their best to do that either through books, articles, talks at conferences or online videos and courses.
Why should someone visit Gamification Europe?
It’s a good idea to come to this event because you will be able to meet people from all over the world not just Europe that work or are interested in gamification. You can network, find customers, partners possibly new friends! You will also learn a lot about where gamification is and where gamification is going in the future. We have a list of speakers that we always get excited when we have a look at it! Amsterdam is a great city with lots to do and see and we have a great venue, food and drink!