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Gamification and Cultural Differences

Gamification and Cultural Differences
Playing games at work? From the work floor to education, gamification is becoming more and more common in a lot of areas. But the practice isn’t as straightforward as it seems: cultural differences prevent game developers from distributing one single game for different countries. Want to know what should be done to these games to cross the globe? 

Gamification is the use of games in fields where they normally aren’t used. Especially in education, it is a practice that is getting more and more attention, as it provides kids with a fun way of learning new skills. However, you cannot create a game that can be played all over the globe: different cultures require different games. Horst Streck, CEO of Gamifier, is here to tell us a little more about why it is important to localise this area of gaming.

According to Streck, gamification is such an important new development because games, whether these are computer games or more traditional ones, are loved by almost everyone in the world. However, rewards people wish to receive after these games are culture related. Streck illustrates this by taking a closer look at the Netherlands and the United States. In the Netherlands, the lack of budget in education, for example, is considered to be a problem that needs government funding. American citizens, on the other hand, often have to figure out where to get money themselves, resulting in very creative ways to find funding.

American Dutch Cultural Differences

There are three more areas where Streck has spotted differences between the United States and the Netherlands: work floor, education and prestige.

With regard to the work floor, being good at your job is rewarded. This can for example be seen in the ‘employee of the month’ title that is awarded monthly to the best performing employee in a great deal of American companies. In the Netherlands, Streck believes ‘There is a general opinion that it is normal to do a good job.’ This would suggest that if the work floor was to be gamified in both countries, the reward system must be different for both countries.

It must be said that in general, competition is a greater part of American than Dutch culture. This is also visible in the educational system. According to Streck, this might have to do with the fact that grades are much more important when finding a job in the US than when doing so in the Netherlands. In the latter country, a diploma itself is sufficient; just as long as you have graduated, no-one will ever ask you about your grades. In the Dutch culture, the only goal is thus to obtain a diploma, and some students are even proud of the fact that it didn’t take blood, sweat and tears to get it.

Streck describes the biggest difference between the American and Dutch cultures as prestige. In the Netherlands, standing out from the crowd is frowned upon very heavily. Modesty is key here, because  even when you have a lot of money, Dutch culture prohibits you from showing off exactly how rich you are. The same goes for success; it is difficult to describe how a successful person or even company should act. Thus, when using gamification for the promotion of products or people, writers should be very careful how to phrase their message in Dutch.

Dutch modesty

These cultural differences are not just pointed out by Streck to show that there is a cultural difference between the United States and the Netherlands. In fact, he believes that we can learn from other cultures. Americans embrace business ideas fairly quickly, which is proven by their use og gamification. In the Netherlands, people are interested in the idea of gamification, but aren’t sure that reward systems will achieve their goals. According to Streck, this might mean the Dutch will spend too much time waiting for the next big thing in the industry, while the Americans are already gathering important data from the reward systems they have already implemented. Streck thinks a mixed strategy created out of of these two approaches will probably work best: ‘if you know that your system won’t be the end product, start R&D at an early stage.’ He also advises companies to make use of what other cultures have already developed.

According to Streck, this strategy will probably lead to extraordinary solutions. In addition, a big advantage of using existing technologies and adapting them according to their own cultural preferences is that companies will get their new technologies to be accepted quicker as well.

by Elise Kuip
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