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What is Funware? A Brief Explanation
Funware is a part of the gamification movement, which involves the use of video game mechanics in non-gaming contexts such as shopping, exercising, learning, volunteering, or even cleaning the bathroom.
In other words, something can be classified as funware if it makes an act more engaging and interesting by making it more like a game. Most common examples of funware utilize one or more of the following elements.
Funware is part of the broader gamification movement in that it comprises the basic tools that are used to turn everyday activities into games. Though funware has been around for ages, it is becoming more prevalent, and more companies and even governments are beginning to intentionally build it into their products, services, and marketing campaigns.
Have you encountered funware before?
- Points: Users can accrue points for activity- whether that involve clicking around a web app, completing a small task, or even spending money.
- Badges / Achievements: To reward players for specific types of activity, be that checking in to a certain number of Starbucks locations or publishing a certain number of online articles, funware may create special badges or "achievements"- cute icons commemorating one's good gaming.
- Levels: Players can motivate themselves and compete against others by vying to level up in a game- perhaps by evolving from a Rookie to an Observer, then Spotter, and then Guru on iCoolhunt.com, one example of funware used for spotting trends.
- Tangible rewards: Users may get actual prizes, such as free flights or points that can be redeemed for hotel stays or consumer products (this is very common with customer loyalty programs).
- Social capital: Even without points, badges, levels, or tangible prizes, users can be motivated to engage with funware for the sheer prospect of accruing social capital (think more followers on Twitter or more likes on Facebook).
- Leaderboards: The various rewards offered by funware would be meaningless if they were not prominently displayed and easy to track- hence leaderboards often play a very important role when it comes to keeping users motivated.
- Challenges or tournaments: Users can be challenged (by the game or other players) to achieve certain milestones or complete certain tasks. This encourages more active participation, and can also encourage players to recruit new users. Funware developed on or with social platforms can also use challenges and tournaments to boost collaboration or competition amongst players.
- A plot or mystery: Alternate reality games motivate players by presenting them with a story to uncover or a mystery to solve.
An Open Definition
The elements listed above are by no means required for something to be counted as funware. The term funware, after all, is an informal one, and it was only coined back in 2008. The definition and aspects of funware are therefore likely to change in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Funware can be as simple as the application of a song and some snapping to the act of cleaning a room (thanks, Mary Poppins). More elaborate iterations of funware are, however, more dependent on the concrete elements of game design listed above.