One of the trends TomorrowToday has been tracking for several years is that of Gamification. Simply put, this reflects that reality that just as social networking, search engines, and online media have changed the way we live, so too has the prevalence of computer gaming.

Society has always used games to teach children the skills that are needed to be successful adults.  Even adults use games to understand and engage with social dynamics and norms – this is why most bosberaad or similar offsite business events often involve some sort of “play” activity.  The process of playing games eases us into what is expected in the situation and also imputes the expected skills and norms in the process.

The key framework we use within TomorrowToday for categorising the trends we track is TIDES Technology, Institutions, Demographics, Environment & Ethics, Social values. Gamification fits firmly within the framework, but straddles a few of the areas.  Gamification sits within the intersection of Technology, Demographics, and as an increasing trend within Social values. One of the ways in which we track trends and developments in the various fields we focus is through press releases and research released by specialist organisations.

Every year the Entertainment Software Association [ESA] in the USA surveys the population and releases a statistics update related to the social impacts and dynamics related to computer and video games. Some key findings in the 2013 survey are listed below.

games5The gender breakdown may surprise some, anticipating that the female number would be lower.  This ratio has been steadily creeping toward 50/50 over the past few years.  This is evidence of the types of games being developed as well as the devices or channels being used to access them.  Smartphones, and new generation consoles with more intuitive controls and interfaces have increased the points of entry into gaming and more female players are now evident.

Tgames6he average age of game purchasers is also one that many expect to be younger, but is aligned with the age split of game players.  This age statistic has also been creeping up steadily.  This is a leading indicator of the rising prevalence of computer gaming within the population segment who are now decision makers and people of influence within organisations.  Expect this to be played out with increasing requests, and eventually agitation, for access to social media at the workplace.  We should also see a rise in simulation type activity included in development activity, with this taking the form of computer game-type environments as the ultimate expression, as these individuals look for more “natural” feeling engagements at work.

Games01Playing computer games is a highly social activity and far removed from the stereotypical picture of the isolated loner spending their life in their darkened room surviving on cold pizza and beer.

48% of this social play is within family units.  Games may consequently be seen as adding to rather than detracting from the building of family bonds.  Again, this response is contrary to many misperceptions of the role and influence of computer games on the modern family, and broader social fabric.

Parents are also closely involved in the process of selecting games and the life balance linked to the amount of time spent playing.  Rather than parents abdicating responsibility in computer gaming, the feedback from this annual survey indicates parents are actually highly involved.  This number has been consistently high over the years that ESA has been conducting this research.



The conclusions drawn from the ESA survey results are borne out by this infographic from Frugal Dad.




The Guardian ran an article in their Jan 25 edition entitled “How online gamers are solving science’s biggest problems”. 

“In 2011, people playing Foldit, an online puzzle game about protein folding, resolved the structure of an enzyme that causes an Aids-like disease in monkeys. Researchers had been working on the problem for 13 years. The gamers solved it in three weeks.”

Players of a game called Planet Hunters, analysing Hubble images, have discovered 40 planets [to date – Jan 2014] that have the potential to support life. None of these planets had been previously identified by astronomers.

The key to these successes is that science is tapping into the 3 billion hours a week that people play games and using the superior pattern recognition ability of the human brain to find things that small groups of specialist are just not able to get to.  By creating addictive and fun games that engage with relatively dry underlying data we are achieving more through play than the world’s best minds are able to achieve through work.

The top 10 games being used for this type of work are:

Phylo: Make patterns and research diseases

Foldit: Make a shape and understand proteins

Forgotten Island: Study organisms to assess man’s impact

Fraxinus: Align patterns to save ash trees

EteRNA: Make shapes to understand genes

Ora: Protect a forest… to help protect forests

Galaxy Zoo: Classify galaxies to understand universe

Eyewire: Untangle puzzle and unearth new neurons

Whale FM: Listen to whales, help marine biologists

Cropland Capture: Identify arable land to feed the world

The world continues to change and as we at TomorrowToday track the TIDES driving these changes computer gaming and the gamification of your life is an area that will receive ongoing attention, and growing significance.


Entertainment Software Association: Essential Facts 2013

Gaming is good for you

How online gamers are solving science’s biggest problems

“Games and science”


TomorrowToday Global