Snakes and Ladders is not a game and we should stop using it in gamification and serious games.
Obviously, it was designed to provoke some comment, but boy was I surprised with the level of interaction I got over the three channels. The LinkedIn conversation may still be going on!
As expected, there were those who agreed and those who did not. Some were using Snakes and Ladders in training very successfully, others agreed that it was a pile of pants.
My justification was as follows: Snakes and Ladders gives the player no agency, no control of the outcome. The player has no influence at all over how the game will play. There are no challenges and no skill needed either.
However, those who felt this was unfair pointed out that as a mechanism for delivering content, it was a great platform. Attaching external values and storytelling to the ups and downs of the game were easy metaphors for many real-life experiences. The unexpected rises and falls of a career for instance.
What was more interesting, in the end, was that the discussion slowly turned into a more philosophical debate about the nature of games.
Lusory Attitude Is Back in the Spotlight
I have spoken a lot about the nature of play, highlighting that play is subjective and contextual and relies on “Lusory Attitude“, ie a playful state of mind. It seems that the same is true of games. Snakes and Ladders may not seem like a game to an adult, but to a child it is magical. They approach it with a lusory attitude, never noticing they have no control. They are absorbed in the competition, the story being played out as the climb ladders and slide down snakes.
I was reminded that anything can feel like a game if you approach it with the right frame of mind. Our job as gamification designers is to create experiences that help to frame the solution in a way that allows our users to approach and engage with that lusory attitude. A narrative that carries a shallow game mechanic, a series of extra challenges that make the core delivery mechanic more interesting, fake choice that makes the user feel they have some level of agency and control etc etc etc.
Is it gamification heaven or hell? It depends how you use it, just don’t be lazy and use it as the only nod towards games in your solution!
The other nice lesson was about the nature of social media – it works best when you remember the social bit 😉
Below are links to the various conversations – there are some real nuggets of gold in there, thanks to everyone who got involved!
The LinkedIn Conversation
The Facebook Conversation
The Twitter Conversation
My vision of a dislike button would have lead to a world where the useless or unhelpful crap that filled much of social media could be slowly trained out. By that I mean that trolls and the like would learn that if everything they post can be disliked and hidden, that they would just crawl away and die.
How very utopian of me.
The reality is going to be far worse for the average user than it is for the trolls – as the trolls will rule the button. Any user who posts a food pic, or a truly emotional cry for help, or something honest, will be a target. Trolls and less kind individuals will be able to passively say “we think you are irrelevant” just by clicking a button.
Just look at YouTube, where personal vendettas are played out by disliking everything a certain person may produce – not because it is not good, just because they don’t like the person.
If a dislike butting was just going to be used by nice people, it would be a great way to tidy up the social web. Sadly, it is always the minority voice of the nasty that is loudest and most noticable on the web these days.
For the sake of this blog, I am concentrating on the Fogg model, I personally have a better understanding of this one. I am reading Nir’s book at the moment so expect me to expand on this concept soon!
Fogg states that there are three things that need to fall in to perfect alignment for behaviours and habits to change; Ability, Motivation and Triggers.
As you can see from the graph, things that are hard to do need greater levels motivation to do them, whilst things that we are not motivated to do in some way need to be easier to do. Either way, you need triggers at the right time to actually do them in the first place.
Let’s take an example of time sheeting system. Very often these are complicated and very user un-friendly. Whilst you may be motivated from the point of view of “I have to fill this in or I wont get paid” (loss aversion and fear), really it holds no interest for you. The fact that it is also hard to do makes it doubly troublesome for people. Usually a few days before your time-sheet is due, you may get some reminder about filling it in, but the likelihood is that this comes at a point when you are busy and gets ignored.
So on Fogg’s chart we are in a problematic area because motivation is pretty low and the complexity means that ability is also low. Add the fact the triggers are pretty weak and you can see why so many companies struggle to get people to get time sheets and expenses done in a timely fashion, it is not habitual for many employees – it is a pain in the back side!
Gamification can help with each of these three factors in different ways.
If people are educated to understand what the benefits are of getting time sheets in on time are, beyond htat of not being paid, then this could help. Give users a sense of purpose by explaining the costs to the company and the people. Explain how much money could be saved if people did this without constant chasing and most importantly how this saving could be fed back to them in the long run. This may go towards increasing motivation.
Also, educate them in the most efficient way of using the system. With luck, the system will be straightforward enough to not need this, but if it isn’t then you need to help people as much as possible. This will go towards increasin peoples ability and making it easier in the future.
As I eluded to in the previous paragraph, make the system easier to use. There is a joke meme that went around ages ago about how your enterprise system compares to Apple and Google ideals. Many people said that it was unfair to compare them to enterprise products as more information needed to be collected.
The truth of the matter is, your employees don’t care about that in the slightest – that is your problem. They have been raised on products that are becoming simpler and simpler to use in the consumer market, whilst it often seems that enterprise and internal products are getting more and more complex to use.
Whilst you may not be able to get your expenses app to only need one text box – you can certainly make it simpler and easy to use. Make sure it is mobile, give people the ability to enter information and scan direct from their mobile. Make the app web based and accessible. Don’t just show hundreds of drop downs, try to give the ability to users to personalise their view so that it only contains their most common tasks.
All of this will reduce the friction users come up against when they use the system and thus increase their ability to use it.
Fogg’s model of Behaviour change revolves around the use of triggers. You may be motivated as hell to do something and it may be the simplest thing in the world to do – but until it has become habitual – you will need to be triggered at a good time to do it. Sending an email at an appropriate time of day may do it. Don’t send it at lunch time – no one will read it and if they do, they will be eating their lunch so wont act on it. Don’t send it first thing as they will be busy with their morning routine. Don’t send it after hours as it will get ignored. Send it during the day, at a time when the morning rush is over and they are settling into day to day work. The exact time comes down to personal culture. Maybe there is a common time for coffee breaks, time the email to come out just after that.
The other thing is, send more than one, that way it has more chance of being seen. If your system is mobile friendly – send a text. Whatever you do – do not send a text or any kind of mobile notification if your system can not be accessed easily from a mobile device!
Finally (and at times optional) Feedback
Thank people for getting things done when you wanted them done. Positive re-enforcement is much stronger than negative. So thank them and let them know that their effort has been appreciated. Personally I much prefer speed notifications on roads that thank me for sticking to the speed limit rather than only telling me off for going too fast.
Gamification can be used in so many ways to improve motivation, reduce complexity of tasks and prompt or remind people. And not one mention of using Points, Badges or Leaderboards! (though they can have their place here as well!!)
I don’t know what it is, but I love cards. I think it stems from my parents, who were avid Bridge players. We always had several decks Bridge cards lying around. I like how they feel in your hand, how they smell, how they sound as you shuffle them. When I first discovered that people had been producing sets of cards for everything from project management to game design and of course gamification, I was a happy man! I own several of these kinds of decks now and love them all.
However, as I was developing my own theories, especially my User Types, I found the decks I had a little less useful to me. So, rather than trying to bend them to my needs, I decided to create my own – the Gamification Inspiration Cards.
About the cards
These cards are designed to help inspire ideas and build new and interesting gamified solutions. They have been developed to work hand in hand with my user types, but they are not limited to just that.
Use them to help you design new strategies and products. Play the various “games” described with the deck or on the “More ways to play” pages to get the creative juices flowing. Stuck? Just sit and shuffle the deck whilst you think about the problem, you may just see a card that triggers that Eureka moment.
A huge thanks to Jonathan Kohl for all of his suggestions as he used the various card prototypes to build new products! Check him out at www.kohl.ca
Buy a deck
If you are interested in buying a deck of these cards, please email email@example.com to pre-order. There are 52 poker sized cards (plus some instructions), wrapped and in a plain box. These are priced at £15 (GBP) plus delivery and are currently on a very limited run!