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Foursquare's badges have become so iconic that one company created physical versions to sell to fans. (Credit: Nerd Merit Badges ) Earning badges and climbing a ladder of "levels" used to be the respective domains of Boy Scouts and devoted video gamers. No more: It's officially the hottest craze in social-media marketing to make your customers think they're playing a game. A niche discussion site, Gravity , instantly informs new users that they've earned a virtual "New Kid on the Block" badge, and when they upload a profile photo, they get a "Photogenic" badge--and there are plenty more where that came from.
Gabe Zichermann is the author of Gamification by Design and chair of the upcoming Gamification Summit NYC, where top leaders in the field - such as those profiled here - get together to share insight, key metrics and best practices. Mashable readers are invited to register with special savings at GSummit.com using code MASH10. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems. In other words, it means taking the best lessons from games like FarmVille , World of Warcraft and Angry Birds , and using them in business. Whether targeted at customers or employees, across industries as diverse as technology, health care, education, consumer products, entertainment and travel, gamification’s impact can already be felt. While some have criticized the concept of gamification as shallow or demeaning, the initial findings from gamification specialists are nothing short of astonishing.