Content is King – Even in Gamification

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We have all heard the saying “Content is King”. Marketers tell us this, SEO experts, PR people, writers and more. They promote quality over quantity as the way to attract and keep people. They also promote the long game, looking for repeatable and sustained success rather than a quick and temporary fix.

In social media it is your content that gets you good quality connections, not silly schemes to buy them. When writing blogs, it is the quality of your content that keeps readers coming back for more, not your publicity offensive.

That is not to say that quality will garauntee success, it won’t. You still have to promote, you still need to get people to see what great content you have. The point is, that you want them to stay and enjoy more. So you push your content through social media channels, you take out advertising in the local or national press, you have adverts on TV.  You do all of this to get people to discover you, then you use your great content to keep them and get them to tell their friends and family all about how great your content is.

This is just as true for gamification.

There is a temptation to see gamification as that quick fix, a way to get people into your system, to get bums on seats. You throw badges and achievements and loyalty schemes at it and hope for the best. Just as with buying followers on twitter, or paying people to create content that you then pass off as your own in a blog, this may well get bums on seats. However, in isolation, that won’t keep those people there and it won’t get them coming back once they figure out what a shallow experience it really is.

You still need quality content. Gamification is not a sticking plaster that will fix a broken and badly written system. It will not replace quality content, or well designed interactions. If you are a teacher who is gamifying 20 year old notes, you won’t be improving your students experience. If you are a company trying to make the expenses system more bearable by adding points and prizes – it won’t work for long. When the shine of the badges begins to fade, there has to be more to keep the people.

I heard a great analogy from my friend Roman Rackwitz, about gamification. He said that the way he explains it to people is that “Soccer is the gamification of running”. This is brilliant in its simplicity as well as its accuracy.  Get kids to run around with for no reason other than running and they will bore quickly. Throw a ball into the mix and they will start to play. This is your on boarding phase, the attract mode, the first few badges and the shiny stuff in your gamified system.

However, if that is all you do, they will still get bored.  You need rules for them to follow (which they will most likely make up for themselves given time). These rules take them from pure play into a game – and that is where the quality content comes in. It is this that keeps people all over the world playing soccer. The rules give you a well designed and balanced game that is easy to play but hard to master. From here, the trophies and the medals and the points are all hard earned and meaningful to the players, they represent the achievements of people who have worked hard to become good.

Quality content is king and always will be, even in gamification.

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13 thoughts on “Content is King – Even in Gamification”

  1. Pingback: Gamification #2. PBL(포인트, 배지, 순위판) 없는 게이미피케이션, 코카콜라 Chok의 사례 | LiveRe Blog
  2. Hey Andrzej, first of all (since this is my first post here) I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading your articles. Good job.

    As for the quality being the most important factor, I wish you were right. So far the gamification has delivered some great examples of good implementation, yet the frenzy it has been met with also resulted with what I call lol-gamification, just throwing badges and achievements and gamifying with meaningless goals.

    I believe this doesn’t work and I hope this doesn’t work. So in a way I cheer for Gartner report (the one with 80% gamification implementations failing their objectives by 2014) to be partially right.

    However, especially in marketing this badge-fest continues and the platforms who deliver it grow. So sadly I am not so sure that people like you, me and others who want quality in this, are right. We might be right that with fun and meaningful goals the gamification looks prettier but having said this we might as well be shown marketing analyses, proving that people do function like those doves in classic psychology experiments and perform the tasks, caught in dopaminergic mechanisms and deprived of quality content.

    All in all, I am not so sure that quality will win in gamification. So far it has not been a massive victory. But we are yet to witness realistic analysis of these first years of gamification hype. So when the fails will go public, perhaps this shall be the moment, when the quality prevails.

    • Hey, thanks.

      As I say, quality is the long game. We are more likely to see it in enterprise than in marketing. Most efforts are aimed at short term engagement – and for some applications it had bee fairly well done.
      It is the large companies looking for innovation (Samsung nation for example) or long term behavioural change that will produce quality solutions.

      • Thanks for reply, Andrzej. I am afraid that the programs like Samsung Nation are most prone to become the examples of meaningless badgefest and actually this kind of design was something I mostly reffered to in my post when talking about my biggest gamification worries. It might be something beneficial in short-term, yes, but I don’t believe that watching videos for points with timer counting you seconds will be the future of building long-term engagement. My prediction is that when gamification hype fades out a bit, so will fade out popularity of platform-based programs because they are closer to complex loyalty programs, motivating extrinsically, than to game.

        • Hey Wojtek, the great thing about your concerns is that this is the normal way like every new technology, strategy, or anything else, works. Almost everything goes this Technology-curve that Gartner is promising. And after 80% failed, there will be the longterm opportunity for people like us to work on more qualitative projects.

          I’m sure at the end Gamification wont look like today. Pure Pointsification will move to the loyality-program-area and and Gamification will be more related with intrinsic motivation. We will have to combine more science from neuroscience and behaviorpsychology to establish Gamification as a serious strategy.

          If we are able to persuade (by using science) companies and people that the trigger and action of motivations happens long before someone is getting to the end of an activity and so also long before someone is seeing the result and is achieving a reward for finishing an activity than we will have a chance to stop this relying on badges and points.

          There is something that science knows and industry ignores ;-). But we will change that.

          But you are right. Patience and perserverance are our only chance to outlast this bullshit pointsification-Gamification.

          • Interesting. I would consider Samsung Nation as a success. It achieved its goal. Having points and badges is not a bad thing, if there is more to the system available after the shine wears off.

          • The bad thing is that most people start thinking about how to implement points and badges. But this stuff should be the last feature to add. If you start with the end I believe that most often it is just luck if something works out. I think that we will see in the longterm if Samsung Nation is a success. But if Samsung just wanted to achieve a short-term hype than, of course, it is already a success. But than it is more about loyality than the real power of gamification.

          • Great thoughts, guys.

            I totally agree with you, Roman, that what you call pointsiffication will hopefully evolve towards loyalty programs and gamification will become the branch oriented around instrisic rewards. But what you are saying I hardly ever hear from others because the current hype often seems to put equal sign between gamification and those complex loyalty programs taken from popular gamification platforms. At least it seems to be the area where the biggest money are put by the clients these days.

            As for Samsung Nation, I am not saying this is a failure but what I am saying is that implementations like this are likely to become the most overestimated feature of gamification. And if they fail, it might severly impact the image of gamification worldwide. I don’t have necessary data to feel I can provide 100% correct analysis on that but if you ask me I think that it all depends on goals and budget put into it.

            If examples like SN are considered a supportive marketing tool, targeted at die hard fans and if milions weren’t spent to create it, then perhaps yes, they are successful.

            But if this was implemented with intention of attracting broader audiences, creating breakthrough and serving as a major marketing tool and if milions were spend on it, then my bet would be that the results wouldn’t match the costs and ambitions. It is simply not attractive enough. Complete strangers will ignore an application which pretty much asks you to work for product promotion by completing tasks and offers you some rewards for it. As I said, it seems like a fair trade-off for dedicated fans but it won’t give the breakthrough which is such a chance in gamification.

            I think that recent popularity of such programs also stems from the fact that they are relatively easy to implement. The biggest challenge for proper gamification will be found in technological limitations because the demands of individual approach might loose with platforms offering “gamification instant”.

            Last but not least. I am not against badges and achievements. As a guy who spent almost 5k hours in MMOs I actually cherish them. I just would like them to be meaningful, that’s all, because this is what makes a difference. In games they work when they are put into context and the context is what is often missing in pointsification. So far I have “played” several gamified programs offered by major companies and I haven’t found a single one which would be immersive enough to really captivate like a good game.

  3. Agree with you, Andrzej. We have been looking at gamification of eCommerce businesses here in India & while the implementation of well designed game mechanics is crucial to incentivizing user actions and rewarding loyalty – this has to be looked at as a piece of a larger jigsaw & not as a silver bullet. Well written!

    • Thanks! The game elements have to be good, but the system or process that they are being applied to have to work well. Now, there are exceptions. Sales logging for example lol. That is never going to be intrinsically fun!

  4. Awesome, thanks for mentioning, Andrzej. I came up with that after I remembered that we used to play soccer at the beginning of our team-handball training and there we were much more motivated to run than doing our normal exercises. 😉


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