For the Win! 1

For almost 20 years now, I’ve been looking at how connected digital technologies change how we live, work, and interact with one another.  That has sometimes taken me in surprising directions.  What seems obvious in hindsight — for example, that a search engine would be the lynchpin of the consumer Internet economy — can be hard to appreciate as it’s happening.  So I spend time and energy following emerging trends, watching for them to connect up.

One of those trends, starting a few years ago, has been the growing significance of digital games.  From playing World of Warcraft, I’ve come to appreciate the incredible richness of experiences these games can produce.  There are fascinating connections between video games and law, sociology, psychology, and technology, not to mention major impacts on culture.  But what got me really excited was when, more recently, I started to see deep connections forming between games and business.  Not the business of selling games (though that’s huge): using insights from the world of games to tackle challenges in the world of business.   There are several names for this phenomenon. The most common is gamification, but a more accurate term is game thinking.

With Dan Hunter, a colleague formerly at Wharton and now at New York Law School, I started to dig into this emerging trend.  We organized the first gamification symposium and the first gamification class, both at Wharton. I was invited to do one of Penn’s first offerings through the Coursera massively open online course (MOOC) platform, and chose gamification as the topic, without know how much interest there would be. It had over 81,000 registered students and the best engagement rates of any course on the platform.  Along the way, Dan and I have been developing case studies, studying the relevant academic literature, and speaking with practitioners.

Gamification is now widely labeled as a “hot business trend.” That has resulted in hype that gives the concept the bad name.   Based on our deep understanding of gamification’s potential and its limits, Dan and I decided to write an accessible business book that provided a clear, well-grounded explanation of gamification and how to employ it effectively.

I’m thrilled that our book, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business, was officially published today by Wharton Digital Press.  It’s available in paperback from online retailers and in all the major ebook formats worldwide.  If you’re interested in finding out what gamification is, or how to apply game design techniques in any organization, please take a look.  Using a digital-first distributor allowed us to get the book into circulation more quickly and at a lower price point than through traditional publishers.

I plan to post more about the book and gamification here on my blog, as well as on, a site we set up for the original gamification symposium.

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