What do you do?

We’re often asked the same questions by people interested in what we do: What’s with the name? What do you do? What is applied gaming? Who let you in here?

And while we’ve used this blog to share our thoughts on what goes into creating provocative, rewarding, participatory experiences, we haven’t talked much about why it all matters to us.

Back in 2009, when our co-founders Matthew Jensen and Nathan Verrill launched Natron Baxter Applied Gaming, gamification was but a glimmer in many a marketer’s eyes. Traditional advertising and marketing were awaiting the next big breakthrough and Angry Birds had yet to take flight.

The Baxters-in-chief struck out to do what they’ve always loved – make and play games that solve real problems – and left behind predictable careers in digital design, user experience and software development to enter the gauntlet of play-based learning and achievement. They recognized early on the promise and potential games had in improving the ways in which people work together and started their business on the principle of “Fun is not the enemy of work.”

Since then, their focus – and guiding principle – has sharpened. Where gamification seeks to reward the outcomes of a person’s choices and behaviors, and is frequently limited to digital experiences, applied gaming seeks to reframe how and why people do what they do by focusing on intrinsic rewards powered by challenge, autonomy and social connection.

The nuance matters because the player matters most.

Marketers see games as gimmicks to gain market share, drive purchase and trial, and add an element of fun to otherwise “unfun” things; they see gamers as money-makers, shoppers, and social currency.

We see games differently, and are convinced our original principle formed a few new wrinkles in its infancy. Fun isn’t everything – or even the most important thing – when it comes to designing a game. Instead, we make games that are intrinsically rewarding, work hard, that command attention and effort, that solve virtuous problems, and reward players on their terms. We seek out and create these “gameful” opportunities in a few ways.

- We make games that make people better and improve their lives, and we do it by designing from their perspective, for their various contexts of play.

- We make games that align player objectives with organizational objectives, and have been commissioned by Fortune 500 companies, startups, cultural institutions, and charitable foundations to do so.

- We make games that matter by crafting remarkable stories that resoundingly answer the question, “So what?”

The more we learn about the people playing our games – the people who buy your products, visit your event, and talk about their experience – the better we get at making gameful experiences, wherever they exist.

We don’t assume a digital solution is the best one or believe all problems can be solved through play, but we inquire, consider, and try our best to understand the world beyond ourselves so that we can confidently say, one way or the other, how we might do the most good.

Want to play? We’re more than happy to talk about how we might consult, design and develop an applied gaming solution. Drop us a note.

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