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Gamification More Than A Game, Keeps People Engaged In Businesses Online

Lesley McClurg

It's a big week for baseball. Yesterday was Opening Day. Tonight the Mariners kick off their season against the Oakland Athletics. But it's not just games on the field that are being promoted this week. Major League Baseball has also added a new game to its website. The goal is to give users a reason to keep coming back. A Seattle company is behind the idea.


Keith Smith is the CEO of the marketing firm, Big Door. The South Lake Union company adds reward systems to websites, like Major League Baseball.

Smith: "They want to reward their users and say thank you for engaging. And they want to recognize you when you are a fan of a particular site, they want to recognize you for that and reward you for that."

The marketing technique is called gamification.

Smith: "I can go to a website, I can get points for showing up, for leaving comments, for uploading content. Maybe for liking things, for Facebook liking, tweeting, sharing, inviting my friends, etcetera. And all these points I can then redeem for interesting, valuable rewards."

One client of Big Door's is Big Krit the rapper, and on Big Krit's website is a reward center. And it looks like I can follow him on Twitter, and I can follow him on Facebook, and then I'm rewarded through Krizzle Coins. And then I can use my Krizzle Coins to be entered into a sweepstakes for free tickets. Or it looks like I can get a shout out on Twitter or Facebook from Krit himself.

Cook: "Often a business person will come in and they will see, oh games are about rewards and numbers going ding, ding, ding, ding. And what they will completely ignore is that games are about learning."

Dan Cook is a Seattle–based game designer. He says gamification is a marketing ploy.

Cook: "You end up with this very, very superficial treatment of games. But you miss the act of play, which is really at the heart of game play."

Keith Smith says if you expect it to feel like a game, you're going to be disappointed.

Smith: "It is not meant to be a game. It is really meant to add a layer of interest and a layer of intrigue and a layer of reward on top of an existing website. It's not meant to be a full game."

And research says many companies are willing to give it a try. M2 is a market research firm that studies gamification. They say direct spending on gamification in the US will reach over $2.8 billion by 2016.

For KUOW News, I'm Lesley McClurg.

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