Gamification often takes and claims inspiration from game design. One of my side hobbies is making the occasional game, as well as spending the last seven years reviewing games for my site yars.co.uk. I thought I would just put a few gamification ideas into context based around my personal knowledge of games and game design. I am y no means an expert, but I hope you will find it interesting.
First up, points. I have made games with point systems and I have made games without. Generally I use the points as a way to represent progression and skill – ie, the higher the score, the further your skills have progressed. This is intrinsic on its own, it is a way for the individual player to see how they are doing and if they are improving. This only works if the points reset each time, that way the player can easily see that if they score higher next time – they have improved. Cumulative points don’t allow you to do this, they just show how many points you have collected over time, which is a little less useful. You could consider a personal leaderboard, that just shows the player their scores over time for an exercise- thus easily showing them their improvement.
As well as this, I have combined points with group leaderboards to allow people to show off their score and compete with others to gain higher scores. For some this competition is fun and is a way to compare their skills to those of others.
The key learning from the use of points and leaderboards has been that they are not the reason people play the games. They play because the games are enjoyable – fun if you will. They offer challenge, require skill and keep the player informed of progression. Without the points, they would achieve some of this, but many players would suggest to find a continued reason to play if there was no way to measure their progress!
The other type of game I have played around with is based purely on narrative. These were games with a purpose, they were intended to make some kind of point. The picture below is from a game called Context. It asked you to make decisions with carrying degrees of context, giving you more of the story as you made each choice. No points, no leaderboards, however every choice had an outcome that had some meaning.
My current project is a simple card game that I am designing with and for my 7 year old daughter. The development of this has taken time, with me creating complex and what I thought was interesting mechanics and rules initially. Over time, these have been cut away to a few simple core mechanics that allow the game to be picked up quickly by my daughter, but takes time to actually learn the tactics for. I suppose this advice would be keep it simple to pick up, but ensure there is depth as well.
- Keep the player informed of their progress. Points (non cumulative and cumulative) can be used to do this.
- Group leaderboards are a way to generate competition between players as well as give players a chance to see how their skills match up to others. This is fun for some, but not for everyone.
- Giving players choices that have a meaningful outcome is a powerful way to keep a player engaged without points.
- The same can be said of a good narrative.
- Keep onboarding simple, but ensure as skill increases there is depth and challenge to the “game” to keep better players engaged.