Soccer is gamified running.

 In english, Gamification
[Tweet „‚Soccer is gamified running.‘ By adding game-mechanics you made ‚just running‘ more challenging.“]

fcbayernThis is a quote of mine that has got a lot of traction during the last months. As a result Johann Odou, the chair of asked the question „What is more gamified? Running or soccer?“

A few days later I sent him my answer that was now featured at the enterprise-gamification website.

„While both Football (aka soccer) and the Olympic 100m Sprint are both considered games in their own right, they can also both be thought of as gamified running. Which of these represents a more extensive use of game mechanics?“

Football (aka soccer) or Olympic 100m Sprint

Running by itself is a very simple activity. Being involved you have to do just one thing: to run. But often there are some additional determining factors. Of course there is a point where you start to run. This starting point can be chosen at random or planned. E.g. right at your door-sill or two streets away where the park begins. Then you will have an endpoint where you decide to stop running and perhaps you will set some time pressure as your personal challenge.

One more determining factor could be that you are running with your friends, and now it becomes interesting: By adding this social layer to your running, all the other factors just became more obligatory, right? There has to be a starting point for you and your friends, most likely you will also stop running together, and the individual running skills of the group will set your time frame.

Answer Roman Soccer question ITo be able to give a comprehensible answer to the question we have to start with the definition of a gamified activity. The most common definition for gamification is:

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems.” (Wikipedia)
To talk about what game-thinking is and so, about what is a Game and when does something start to be a Game is a very complex topic that has been discussed for decades. For this question I would stay with the simple but sufficient definition from Wikipedia: “Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction.”

Using elements like goals, rules, challenges and interaction is a very simple but great poin to start when thinking about gamifying an activity and to answer your question. With these defined elements let’s look again at our running example:

Answer Roman Soccer questionIIRunning

The element challenge depends on the ratio between the defined goals and rules, and the individual skill level of the involved person. This means that it is very difficult to talk about the level and the influence of the challenge, concerning the activities running, soccer and sprint, as long as we don’t know anything about the participant. Of course, as more rules are being introduced into an activity and it becomes more complex, the challenge probably will increase. But at this point this doesn’t say anything about if it helps to transfer the activity into an engaging (perfect), boring (too easy), or frustrating one (too difficult). Now let’s have a look at the Olympic 100m Sprint.Answer Roman Soccer questionIII

Olympic 100m Sprint

The Olympic 100m Sprint is an official competition and in order to be an interesting and valuable event for both, spectators and participants, it has to provide the same possibilities for everyone.
This means that it has to be deeply structured. Comparing it with our graphic that is based on the running activity we can see that the sprint shares, in its core, the middle sector (red). To be able to measure the success of a sprint you need a defined start and end and you have the general goal to be as fast as possible (time frame). Of course, the Olympic games are a public event and there will be a lot of competitors.

So, even if (in its most simple form) your 100m sprint-time could be official measured at any time and place on earth and than just be compared to other official measured people, it is the attractiveness of the event that all the athletes are coming together at one place, and on one particular time, to compete. This directly executed competition makes it more challenging for the competitors because they have to be ready to run their best time at one scheduled time, and it is primarily this social-interaction element that makes it so interesting for spectators and just because of this huge interest of the public the Olympic Games are achieving their meaningful purpose.


Answer Roman Soccer questionIVAs you can see, there is a small but important difference between Sprint and Soccer, concerning Timed running and Social running.
This orange Arrow. While the 100m sprint, at its heart, is about your individual Timed running and the ‘social layer’ adds additional value to the whole activity, Soccer is more the other way round.
Here, it is all about teamplay. By playing soccer, if you are doing a great job but your whole team doesn’t get it right, you will fail inevitable. But if you are doing bad and your teamplayers are doing a great job, you still can win. So, Soccer, at its heart, is about Social running and your individual performance (Timed running) adds additional value to the whole activity.

But, of course, this is not all. Concerning its challenges soccer is much more complex. Additional to be a good runner you need to have a feel for the ball, you need to see how your teammates are behaving, you need to recognize the performance and behavior of the opposing team, you need to be able to execute different tasks like to dribble, to hit the ball, to pass the ball, to cover your opponent, and much more.


Both activities can be seen as gamified running. By adding goals, rules, and interactions you are creating structured challenges and also a game-like structure. This way you can say that you are using game-thinking in a non-game-context (in its classical sense) what is called Gamification by definition.

This is just the explanation from the structural point of view. Another possibility would be to argue it from a psychological & neuroscience point of view.

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