Gamification: It’s not all about trophies
There is a lot of talk by those in the know who are getting fed up with people associating gamification with nothing but trophies and badges. Stick a badge on it and it is gamified. Personally I am not sure I am totally with them. For me if it works, use it. However, more often than not achievements and the like are only short term fixes on their own. There needs to be a strategy in place that will are only short term fixes on their own. There needs to be a strategy in place that will keep the users engaged, one that uses the more obvious rewards to enforce the less simple to grasp game mechanics. This article will look at a small selection of game mechanics that can be used in most gamification situations.
Pride: We should take pride in our work
Let’s start with pride as it does tie in well with the achievements idea. People feel proud of the achievements they have, the feeling of pride can help to drive them to achieve more. However, there is more to it than that. If users feel that the work they are doing in some way belongs to them, then they will feel pride in making sure it is as good as possible. With Giff Gaff (my favourite example, I know) the community runs a lot of the day to day support and marketing for the company. This feeling of ownership (another game mechanic by the way) is also a matter of pride to the members. They feel that Giff Gaff is their company and as such they will try even harder to make it more successful.
Epic Meaning: More than just this
Following on nicely from Pride, is Epic Meaning. In a game, a player will often play through the more boring levels, if they think that there will be some great discovery to be made in the story line. They will work together as a community to help each other achieve their goals and attain their individual Epic Meanings in the story lines. The reason that this ties in well with pride, is that one of the many reasons people feel pride in doing things is the thought that they are involved in something bigger than themselves, something epic. With Giff Gaff this Epic Meaning is a company that is built on the effort of the individuals all working together to make a mobile operator that is better than any other out there.
Blissful Productivity: the useful bit
None of this is of any use unless there is something tangible at the end of it. So far I have just looked at mechanics that will help to motivate a user to do something. As humans we tend to have very active minds. An unusual side effect of this is that very often we will enjoy doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is not all that exciting. How many millions of people play games like Farmville in the down time. This is not an exciting game, you are managing numbers basically. It can be hard work as well. User based support or answer services make great use of this. Quora, relies on our need to keep our minds active to answer questions that other users ask. People will spend hours after their working day, just answering the questions of others. Their reward for this perceived productivity? Throw a little pride in owning the answers, a bit of epic meaning as they work towards a greater good and you have the makings of a game!
Behavioural Momentum: just keep working
Finally a look at what I think is one of the strangest game mechanics, but also one of the more useful ones to understand. When people feel they are being productive in some way, they will continue to do the same task over and over again. Taking Farmville as our gaming example here, players will spend hours after (or during) work, doing the same mundane task, over and over because they feel that they must be achieving something of use. Looking at Quora or Yahoo Answers, people keep answering questions with no real reward, just because they have already been answering so may as well continue. In the end they are producing a useful resource for others. This can be applied to almost any mundane task; data entry, support desk, coding etc. On its own though, it may not be enough.
Tying it all together
I have chosen to look at game mechanics that all tie together quite nicely. There are many, many more out there and I am sure I will talk about them in time. The point with this article was to show that it is not all about trophies and awards. However, now to torpedo that idea a little. All of the mentioned game mechanics are great. They all work, they are all being used. The thing is, on their own they are not that much use. They need to be combined to produce actual results.
Whilst trophies and badges on their own will not keep people engaged for all that long, neither will any of the other mechanics. However, if you combine them all together, you begin to produce something that is much more sustainable. Use progressive rewards to reinforce feelings of pride. Use badges to show others how well people are doing – remember they are doing this on your behalf, show the world what they have done. The more productive a person is, the more they should have to be proud of. As their feeling of pride and ownership is increased, it stands to reason that their productivity will increase.
More soon, until then – Keep Playing the Game!