Gamification vs. Workification: Is There A Middle Ground?

Hey All!

I have a question about how gamification and workification relate to one another.  I'm trying to come up with some thoughts on the missing quadrant below.  Its pretty important to the project I'm working on as its the premise of a whole series of blog posts I'm working on.

If any of you have any ideas I'd greatly appreciate it.

This is the original post from:  But I haven't figured it out the answer yet :(

If gamification happens at work to increase interest and productivity, and workification happens while playing games…

Is there a middle ground that can bring the two sides closer together?



As we transition from adolescence to adulthood, we are faced with the brutal realities of life. If Life is a game, this game is tough. The cost of living takes up increasing real estate in our brains and gives us less time to play games.

Initially, I found it difficult to transition into being a “productive” member of society. Despite performing heroic deeds, overcoming insurmountable odds, and memorizing and applying power curves in all sorts of games, I couldn’t figure out how to do the same with my professional growth. Spouting off chapter and verse on obscure roleplaying rules offered no challenge, yet I struggled to memorize procedural manuals at work.

But, as I explored the realm of work productivity and job satisfaction, I realized that my gaming experience could apply itself to the larger, more complex game of business. Since then, I have leaned heavily on both my passion for gaming and my business experience, and I have consequently had great success as a team builder and process manager.

I attribute that success directly to gaming.


Much has been said about the use of gamification in the workplace. Game-like reward systems that help motivate workers to complete repetitive tasks are a wonderful addition to the team building/management toolkit.

I am a big fan of this idea and have incorporated a number of gaming methods in my own team management techniques. However, finding a common mechanic which applies to everyone is problematic. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology Here is a great starting point if you want to get an idea of the diversity I am talking about.

If we acknowledge that there are different motivations for gamers, it follows that people would have at least the same level of diversity in their life motivations. 

Ultimately, it is up to the manager, much like game developers, to determine how best to include everyone in workplace game mechanics.


If gamefication is adding an “element of fun to every job that must be done” in the workplace, workification is the other end of the spectrum. This concept introduces the “grind,”  the requirement of doing a task over and over in order to achieve an objective. Many find that this repetition defeats the entertainment function of games and should be avoided at all costs.

The stigma of workification is compounded by “evil game studios” that introduce  grinding mechanics to make more money. Grinding lengthens game content by slowing players’ speed of progression through the game. Game studios can thus get more profit from less content if they successfully balance the equation.

For all the opposition, however, I actually see a place for workification in games. When done right, game studios strike up a work/reward cycle which keeps players motivated (hopefully) and willing to work through tasks which require diligence and patience.

If its somewhat sinister connotations are ignored, I see the concept of “workification” feeding well into work/life preparation. If games can prepare people for diligent work and employers can create systems that emulate these patterns, the result might be a win-win: a productive and fulfilling work/life balance.


As I have worked through the gamer-to-professional path, I have found the biggest benefit in the space between games and life application.  Games that simulate life essentially taught me how to learn the life skills I needed to get by. 

An excellent example of this is Rich Dad Cashflow 101. This game taught me how to get my spending habits in order and avoid a lot of the doodads that sucked up my extra cash.

This type of game was also the chief method of learning in my MBA. We worked through business case simulations and had to plan for and anticipate the changing “game” landscape. At last, I was able to apply my gaming experience to real life. 

As a result of this learning mechanic and my background in gaming, I did extremely well in my degree. All of a sudden, I understood how to apply all of my nerdy gamer knowledge in the workplace. It was as though a switch turned on in my brain that allowed me to see the power gaming curves in business decisions. 

In a nutshell, it changed my life.


If using simulations can unlock our ability to succeed in life (as it did for me,) are there action items we can pull directly from the games we already play to help us with this work/life transition?

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 3.50.49 PM

This is the main question that I am exploring. I’m looking to stay on the gaming side of the table and yet pull real life action items out of the games we already play.  Does it make sense to apply business knowledge to the game mechanics of our pastimes?  Is such an attempt worthwhile?

The Life Lessons From Gaming series is a weekly post that explores the games we love and how they can improve our life. I think some examples might be a stretch, but I believe the principle is sound.

I would love to see a progression that looks something like:

Workification –> (need help with a term) –> Game Simulations –> Gamification

If our excellence at gaming can be applied to our work life, then there is no obstacle we can’t overcome. I think this would be the true definition of POWER GAMING.


Hey, did you notice that ugly blank space in the progression? Well, that’s because I haven’t thought of the perfect term yet! Can you think of a term that describes what I’m talking about? What can we call it when we pull life lessons out of the games we play?

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Comment by Josh Schermer on February 2, 2015 at 6:54pm

Oyy Stephen I went to edit my comment and deleted it instead ): I'll try and add some value here if I can to your interesting post. I'm wondering about your definition of workification in this workflow: 

This concept introduces the “grind,”  the requirement of doing a task over and over in order to achieve an objective.

I think this is an industrial age interpretation of work and not a gameified one. I'm adding a link to some distinctions I/and my mentor make between being a worker and being a player and I hope they help in some way: here you go

Lastly though I feel a player is motivated by purpose, satisfaction, and intrinsic rewards more than anything, thanks!


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