There is nothing worse than playing against people who are miles ahead of you in terms of either ability or equipment. It is very demoralising to lose time and time again when in reality you never have a chance. Take leaderboards as a good example. Very often the people at the top are always the same few names, over and over again. For most companies, this does not seem to get addressed for some reason. It’s a bit like pitting your local Sunday Dad’s league against Chelsea every week. There is no opportunity for the Sunday players to ever be as good as Chelsea, they will get destroyed week after week until they give up playing. It is totally unfair and unbalanced. This is why in organised sports, you have divisions and leagues. You only play against people that you have a fair(ish) chance of beating.
Leaderboards have been a staple of gaming and gamification for as long as both have existed. From Space Invaders, to baseball, to your gamified CRM system – all have had leaderboards in there somewhere.
The reasoning goes “if you are the top, you feel special and if you are at the bottom, you don’t want to be there so are motivated to improve”.
It sounds great, doesn’t it? Instant engagement. DO well, feel special. Do badly, be motivated to do better. In some cases, this is can be the case. In sports, it is a way of knowing where a team is in the league and how many points they need to improve by. In space invaders it was a way to create a more social or even personal challenge in the game, helping to create that “one more go” feeling. If I have one more go, I know I can be better than AAA or myself.
A question I get asked a great deal is “Are points, badges and leaderboards enough?” The stock answer from me is usually a resounding “No, you must consider motivation and the needs of the user, think RAMP and more…” In fairness, this is good advice and you should consider intrinsic motivation over extrinsic and the like. However, the answer really should be “Sometimes, it depends what your goals are.” You see, if you are looking for a short term or short sharp engagement, PBL may well be fine. Very often in gamification we are trying desperately to get people to consider long-term motivations and engagements. Really, it is likely that it is just a single simple task that people want completing. Read a new policy, complete the training, check out a new product.
I thought this week, after 2 years of avoiding it, I would write a short starter for actually creating a gamified system. This will cover the basics of what I call a Thin Layer system – also known as PBL (Points, Badges and Leaderboards) system.
Now, before you all shout at me for explaining how to do a system that I can often be heard saying is not the best type of gamification, consider this. Thin Layer is the most common type of system out there and it is the easiest to start with. It can also be very effective over short periods of time, for things like short campaigns, education and on boarding into deeper systems. The point is (as Kris Duggan from Badgeville once pointed out to me), sometimes, something is better than nothing, as long as it is well designed and created for a purpose. My view is, of you are going to try – you should at least be armed with the right information to make the best go of it possible.
Leaderboards are an effective way to show a user quickly where they currently stand within a gamified system. A fun example is the Gamification Gurus leaderboard from the company Leaderboarded. Each month they release an update that shows who has been active in the gamification world that month. It is a great example of a leaderboard being used in isolation – without all of the points and badges that are often associated with simple gamification.
Many blogs and websites these days make use of a comment system called Disqus to manage their comments. It has a few plug-ins that you can easily add to your site if you are using it for comments. One is a Top Commenter’s box. If you look at my blog, you should see it in the side bar. It shows people, at a glance, who is posting the most comments on your pages.