A Quick History of Gamification Vol.1

A quick history on gamification (from the beginning to 2005) Vol. 1

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The history of gamification is a lengthy one. Since gamification has been identified as a powerful engagement tool, it has become a standard feature of software design.


With such an omnipresent feature, it’s easy to forget that, pre 2003, no one had even said (much less heard) of the word ‘gamification’. We’re going to backtrack the steps of those who recognised the potential of games, and game mechanics to involve users.



So step aboard our nostalgia mobile and join us on a voyage back in time while we explore the roots of the revolution! Woohoo!


The Timeline of Gamification: The 1900s


1908 – The Boy Scout movement was founded


The Boy Scouts bestowed members with badges to acknowledge their achievements. Scouts could earn badges to become proficient in an activity, act according to the organisation’s principles, and attend special events.




1973 – The potential of games to engage employees is acknowledged


Released in 1973, The Game of Work was inscribed by Charles A Coonradt to discuss the issue of flagging richness in the US. Coonradt recommended that fun-and-games might be the answer to the thorny employee engagement problem, noting that productivity was failing as sports equipment rose and recreation sales.


1978 – The Nativity of Social Video Games


Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw developed MUD1, the first-ever Multi-user Dungeon game. Though its text-based interface was relatively unimpressive compared to today’s standards, it lit the igniter for the bang of online social gaming.


1981 – Gamification takes a flight to the skies


AAdvantage, the world’s first frequent flier program, was issued by American Airlines. The drive sought to encourage customer loyalty by offering rewards for common civility – a standard we very much see today in every high-street coffee shop.


1982 – Academics acknowledge the potential of gaming

With computer games showing inherent abilities to engage users, studies exploring potential uses began to surface. Thomas W. Malone, in 1981, released Toward a Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction and Heuristics for Designing Enjoyable User Interfaces. These two articles outlined what could be acquired from computer recreations and how it could be applied to other areas.

1996 – Game players are characterised

Richard Bartle (MUD1 developer) represents four gamer types based on how different personalities play a game. This model would go on to become the foundation of many gamification leads.


1999 – Fun is taken gravely!

More and more people have started to realise the power of ‘fun’. Stephen W. Draper published a paper suggesting that user satisfaction should be a fundamental requirement of all software configurations.



The History of Gamification: The 2000s

In the years leading up to the end of the millennium, the power of game mechanics was gradually gaining acknowledgment. As 1999 drew to an end, and everyone was singing Prince songs, nobody could have suspected the cultural sensation that gamification had nearly become.


Through the latter part of the 20th Century, people were starting to consider games to enhance productivity in the workplace. Do check out our previous blogpost on just this topic of “Effective Gamification and Game-Based Learning in the Workplace“.


We had our victories, and we had a notion of a genuinely powerful and practical guide for engagement – and the only thing we were missing was a name.

Mobile games 

2002 – “Gamification” is born

While composing a game-like user interface for commercial electronic devices (mobile phones, ATMs, vending machines), Nick Pelling invents the ‘deliberately ugly’ word, gamification. With a name, the history of gamification truly begins.


2005 – The Prime Modern Gamification Platform

Rajat Paharia founded Bunchball, a platform designed to boost website engagement by adding a layer of game mechanics. It would be another three years before they adopt the term ‘gamification.’ Also, in 2005, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Gamerscore system is presented, instituting in-game achievements.


So far in this volume, we have seen how Gamification was first conceived and implemented from as early as the 1900’s to the early 2000’s. You can deduce that the early years were mainly about experimentation to see how people would adapt to the new game-based landscape.

Stay tuned for VOL. 2  to see where we are now, and the exciting new possibilities it presents!

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