Gamification and tourism: new experiences under construction


21 August, 2014

Gamification and tourism: new experiences under construction

Gamification is destined to become an influential trend in the coming years, and may be just as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon when it comes to web innovation. So much so that a recent study by Gartner, an American consultancy, notes that by [inlinetweet prefix=”@gvames” tweeter=”@gvames” suffix=””]the end of 2014, over 70% of the 2000 largest companies in the world will have at least one “gamified” application[/inlinetweet]. Experience shows that the use of these techniques provides important benefits to companies and institutions. In this sense, we wonder what gamification can bring for tourism, and cultural tourism in particular.

We need to analyze what motivates the visitor when performing a certain activity and see how these satisfaction and reward mechanisms can be applied to other non-recreational tasks. The range of possibilities is broad. To date, we can say that experiments have been carried out in two main lines: ‘Tetris mode’ and ‘Quiz mode’.

In what we have called ‘Tetris mode’ we include purely entertainment-focused proposals, with a low degree of complexity, but with the ability to trap a wide range of audiences. Such is the case of the Holmenkollen ski jump web, which functions as a teaser to one of the main tourist and sporting attractions in Norway. This is a free game that allows users to compete with friends and other players on-line to reach the podium in Holmenkollen. Playable Doodles or interactive applications by Google, sometimes associated with important historical landmarks, would be a good inspiration source for cultural institutions wishing to experience this online promotional tool.

The ‘Quiz mode’ refers to proposals that make competitions with a questions-answer format a path to learning. Imagine, for example, a gymkhana tour in which the user solves a series of challenges. By making an effort, the visitor gets motivated, making the experience more rewarding. Of course, it is essential that the city or the exhibition space remains the main focus, always keeping the user with his “chin up”.

As is clear from both models, the use of rewards has become one of the key elements in gamification. In this sense, and to ensure that any institution can issue their own logos to certify a skill or knowledge, the Mozilla Foundation has developed Open Badges. However, caution is required when applying these strategies; otherwise we run the risk of trivializing the experience.

Banality is the greatest enemy of this type of strategy applied to the cultural sphere, because the rewards can divert attention from one of its main objectives: learning. In this sense, learning should be a part of the road to the prize, and this prize should be a bonus for extra motivation, but in no case the ultimate goal of the activity.

Moreover, beyond the attraction and retention of the public through participation, one of the great benefits of gamification is its viral potential. Applied to culture, it is a form of “expanded experience” in which social networks are a key ally. It seems by no means trivial that gamification is a major technological trend discussed this year by Spanish Cultural Action (AC / E) in its Digital Culture Yearbook. The implementation of these mechanics is well planned and the definition of objectives presents a great potential to [inlinetweet prefix=”@gvames” tweeter=”@gvames” suffix=””]transform learning into entertainment, fun into culture and users into fans[/inlinetweet].