A short history of gamification

We encountered gamification in every era of humanity. A short history of gamification contains a lot of amazing things.
How did gamification emerge?

Why do people play games? Why do the eyes of the players turn from greed, why do thousands of people experience a frenzy of excitement at crowded football matches? Gamification is a spiritual concept that goes back to pre-human times and develops instinctively. Contrary to what is known, this action, which we encounter everywhere in history, and which was found in the instincts of animals long before humans, has a long history. This action, which has an intensity that cannot be explained biologically, can distract people from the difficulties and expectations that come with life and enable them to express their inner emotions.

Pre-millennium gamification

As we mentioned above, gamification is not a new concept, it was gamification in every period of human life to make things fun.

The Kriegsspiel war game, which was used to teach the tactics of the Prussian army in 1824, is one of the best examples of this. With this act of gamification, it was ensured that the soldiers in the training received badges by showing certain successes.

Kriegsspiel board game
An image from the Kriegsspiel board game.

Another good example of gamification, the AAdvantage card offered by American Airlines to its customers, introduced the flight mile accumulation system in 1981, which we often encounter today.

This action, which even contributes to certain branches of art, is one of the biggest factors in the discovery and determination of humanity’s character.

The day we stop playing will be the day we stop learning.


Oregon Trail a text-based strategy game developed by Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger in 1971 and produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1975, is considered the first game used in education. The main purpose of this game is for children to learn the facts of the 19th century. Likewise, Reader Rabbit (1983, Leslie Grimm) and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (1985, Broderbund) can be cited as examples of educational use of gamification.

The Oregon Trail 1971
Image from The Oregon Trail

Thomas W. Malone’s article, Heuristics for Designing Delightful User Interfaces, published in the early 1980s, allowed developers to focus on innovations in the interface part of gamification and user experience. This article describes how we can make the features that make video games attractive make other user interfaces interesting and fun to use.

Millennium and present

In the 2000s, user experience has become an area that cannot be ignored, and more work has been done on entertainment and gaming in user experiences. The ideas continued to grow that interfaces could not only be usable but also fun, upon planting these seeds all it took was a suitable technology and the tools to implement that technology.

While technology continues to develop rapidly and become portable, it has also become more widespread by getting cheaper. In this context, devices kept getting smarter (steps taken, our location history, browser cookies and more). With the Nintendo Wii, which was offered to users in 2006, players were now faced with a more realistic experience while playing games. Apart from consoles, the revolution of mobile devices started in 2007. The first Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, and the first iOS device, the iPhone, were released in the same year. Now people would be able to use their phones not only to make calls but also to gamify their daily activities.

Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple.

In 2008, mobile devices joined the race. The App Store on the iOS side and the Play Store on the Android side were available to users. These stores have enabled millions of applications that can be counted as gamification in the future to reach users.

If you have succeeded in catching the times when Facebook was popular, there are games that stick in your mind. For example, even I played Farmville’s first web-based game a lot, despite my young age. The sudden popularity of this type of game has proven that the existence of casual players is substantial, leaving the popularity of the hardcore game genre aside.

Farmville Facebook
Although popular in the past, Zynga has already pulled the plug on first Farmville.

It has been accepted by certain groups that the first gamification in applications was made by Foursquare. This program, which was offered to users in 2009, allowed users to search and discover new places. While you were traveling, you were also winning awards and badges.

Foursquare gamification
Foursquare is one of the best examples of gamification.

When the year shows 2010, we see that gamification conferences and events are held, and the first event organized by Company Gamification in San Francisco belongs to this year.

When the dates show 2012, it is seen that 45 thousand people participated in the online gamification course held by Kevin Werbach on the Coursera platform. In the same year, research by Gartner.com analysts shows that 70% of global organizations have at least one gamified application.

61% of CEOs and senior executives who participated in a survey conducted at that time stated that they played games during the breaks during the day. Although business ethics require seriousness, as mentioned in the book “Homo Ludens”;

Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.

Johan Huizinga

The gamification market, which reached $9.1 billion in 2020, is expected to reach $30.7 billion in 2025.

Last words

When we take a look at history, we see that gamification started to be applied for war training, but today it has evolved to increase marketing and customer loyalty. Linking game mechanics to a factor other than gameplay has proven useful and productive. Games encourage and motivate people to do difficult and unwanted things.

Gamification (if done right) can increase productivity, motivation and creativity, while strengthening communication processes and supporting employee participation. In fact, it is possible to say that a good gamification project can even raise the corporate image, with the data in hand.

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