“Of course my friend. When do you want to schedule the interview?” Altug Yilmaz responded to my rather formal request for an interview over LinkedIn in less than an hour and he couldn’t be friendlier. Over the next few days scheduling the interview and then actually conducting it, I was able to observe the enthusiasm and zest with which Altug approaches even the tiniest things which make apparent his success in pioneering gamification in Turkey. Read on to learn Altug’s views on gamification and his quest to make Gamification Meetup, Turkey a premier conference.
The interview has been lightly edited for coherence.
Rakshith: Altug. Thank you for agreeing to do this. Can we start with how you got introduced to gamification?
Altug: It started with Niels (Niels van der Linden, GamFed co-founder) introducing me to gamification about 3 years. I was fascinated by it and started reading voraciously about gamification. I soon realised that there wasn’t much awareness about gamification in Turkey. So I decided to create that awareness. I started talking about gamification. Then I started teaching gamification at university. I wrote a book, the first Turkish book on gamification. Now I am a part-time teacher of gamification. I divided my time between teaching, talks, and gamification consulting.
Rakshith: Speaking of teaching and talks, can you tell us a little bit about the gamification meetup you organise in Turkey and how it has evolved over the years?
Altug: Yes, this is the 3rd year of the meetup. I started it in 2017 wherein about 80 people attended and we held it in one conference room. Last year, about 250 people attended. This year we had over 500 people attending, 30 dedicated speakers on gamification, and over 100 volunteers. Roman Rackwitz (GamFed co-founder) was the keynote speaker. Niels van der Linden was also a speaker. We had a lot of different people coming in to talk about different perspectives on gamification. We made some special games for the meetup and virtual reality (VR) featured prominently too. Altogether, it has evolved into a fun and successful event where people come to either get introduced to gamification, to learn more about gamification, or when they are looking for gamified solutions. It attracts all kinds of people.
Rakshith: That’s interesting. Why do you think it has become so successful?
Altug: I think a large part of the credit goes to this generation. They’ve grown up playing a lot of video games and are familiar with games. In the general, I think the Turkish love games. But the belief is that there is no place for games in education, hiring, marketing, business and other so called serious pursuits. So initially this meetup was a way to educate people. They’re surprised to realise that gamification can be an independent business.
Also, the fact that I am pioneering gamification in Turkey helped. The talks, workshops, and lectures I did helped to build my credibility in gamification. Those talks lead to more people asking questions about gamification. So I connect them to people and books. But people would have different excuses given for not being able to learn. So I started a monthly meetup to teach gamification for which the entry is free. People can work on their projects in this meetup. Knowledge sharing happens here. That led to a yearly conference.
Rakshith: What’s the gamification hackathon you organise?
Altug: We’ve organised one gamification hackathon. It was held in September. It’s held along the format of the Global Game Jam. 10 real companies like Turkish airlines, KFC, etc. participated. These companies share real problems and KPI, to student teams. These students participate to solve the problems over 48 hours of intense competition. It’s a great way to find talent. We are organising another one this year.
Rakshith: Hackathon is also great way to learn about gamification isn’t it? What suggestions do you have for someone wanting to learn about gamification?
Altug: There are different ways to learn gamification. You can learn it in many ways. It has a serious application in business. No one framework will teach u everything. My advice would be to read more books and play more games. But that’s not enough. If you want to master gamification, apply it. And also learn from associated fields like behavioural economics, learn player types. That’s because gamification is powerful and can be used to help improve behaviour.
Rakshith: Finally, what message do you have for GamFed?
Altug: I think we can find the right people in different countries who can share knowledge and also spread gamification. Events, online conferences, and people coming together is a wonderful platform that GamFed provides.
You can contact Ercan Altug Yilmaz here