The start-up, which re­cently moved into trendy new Lon­don head­quar­ters af­ter years op­er­at­ing from the same of­fice, has never taken on in­vest­ment, but ev­ery sin­gle new em­ployee is given eq­uity. They also have ac­cess to an in­ter­nal dash­board where ev­ery­one can see how much money they’re billing, how much money they’re spend­ing, and how much money is sit­ting in the com­pany bank ac­count.

“[Our cul­ture] is com­pletely au­then­tic to the prod­ucts we put out,” says Mar­cus. “If we’re do­ing well, that has next to noth­ing to do with me [as a founder]. If we’re do­ing badly, I can’t do a lot about it. I have no ca­pa­bil­i­ties com­pared to the peo­ple here. My role is to clear a path for them.”

So, how does he rate on Totem? “By no means am I top of the board,” he laughs. “My ku­dos is in the bot­tom half, so I’ll try harder. I have far more in­ter­est in get­ting ku­dos from an en­gi­neer at Play than a big-wig. In a man­age­ment role you’re cry­ing out to get feed­back from the peo­ple you serve.” Want to gam­ify your tech prod­uct? Fol­low Mar­cus’ tips (and warn­ings). A lit­tle bit of me dies when I hear the word ‘gam­i­fi­ca­tion’. It can sound a bit pseudo, like bo­gus con­sul­tant-bab­ble. The word gam­i­fi­ca­tion may be glibly used by peo­ple who don’t know what they’re talk­ing about. We just [tend to say that we] make great ex­pe­ri­ences that are ob­ses­sively fo­cused on the player. It’s proven that us­ing a game ap­proach can rev­o­lu­tionise en­gage­ment, mo­ti­va­tion and be­hav­iour around a prod­uct. But that doesn’t mean that a leader­board and a cou­ple of badges are go­ing to make an iota of dif­fer­ence on their own. I view the mech­a­nisms of games (points, lev­els, chal­lenges and goals) a bit like lip­stick: used with a beau­ti­ful prod­uct, they im­prove and en­chant; used with a pig of a prod­uct… Well, you get the gist! Only once you un­der­stand how the prod­uct solves real prob­lems for real peo­ple can you su­per­charge it with gam­i­fi­ca­tion. Games are prod­ucts to be used with in­cred­i­ble fre­quency to de­liver win mo­ments. Yes, there are char­ac­ters, whizzing and some­times guns, can­dies or divine beasts, but at their core they’re en­gage­ment ex­pe­ri­ences that drive bil­lions of peo­ple to ded­i­cate time and feel joy. In gam­ing, user growth has been stag­ger­ing, with the de­mo­graphic shift­ing from ado­les­cent teens to mums, dads and older play­ers. The av­er­age player age is now 35. Take that in! The next wave – your em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers, part­ners and sup­pli­ers – get games. They thrive on the no­tion of ‘AMP’ (au­ton­omy, mas­tery and pro­gres­sion). In short, they’re wired to re­spond to the games mind­set. The fu­ture is one where a games mind­set and per­sonal data al­low us to self-op­ti­mise. It’s hope­fully also one where we have a bet­ter term than gam­i­fi­ca­tion to de­scribe what we do.

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