This is a guest post by Suzanne Nguyen. Suzanne is the Director of Developer Marketing for Immersion, a firm that provides haptics technology for mobile device. She also posts developer tips on their blog, and you can follow Suzanne and her team on twitter @HapticsDev.
As the latest buzzword, 'gamification' has been the topic of every marketing organization. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, “gamification is the use of game design technique, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts”. What’s the big deal, you might ask? Why would this be important to me as a developer? The short answer: because gamification creates high levels of engagement and encourages more active participation from your users.
The idea behind gamification is creating a game with set rules and rewards to transform what would be an ordinary, boring task (sometimes considered a chore) into something fun and engaging. It’s about building human psychology and behavioral science into a process or marketing strategy to help influence consumer behavior and attract customers (also known as the “player” in gamification). This dynamic helps to build loyalty in the “players” and keeps them coming back. In fact, loyalty and engagement are sometimes referred to as the same thing and are important because revenue follows loyalty/engagement. According to studies, the most loyal customers pay far more compared to the casual player or novice even though they are drawn to the ecosystem.
Interestingly, gamification is not a new concept. No doubt you’ve seen it work or maybe even participated in some of these games. Foursquare, Facebook, Zynga as well as fast food chains like McDonald used gamification techniques such as granting achievement badges, achievement levels, virtual goods, and gifts to gain more engagement and loyalty with their users and consumers. All of these use case share four core elements: a goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation.1 The goal allows the player to focus their attention on what the final outcome should be. The rules set limitations and boundaries on how the goal is achieved, as well as define the desired behavior from the player. A feedback system tells the player how close they are to achieving their goal. This can be a point system, levels of achievements, badges, scores, progressive bars, etc. and when a game is over. Voluntary participation gives the player the freedom to participate or not and requires that everyone playing the game willingly knows and accepts the goals, rules and feedback system of the game. This sets the common grounds for all participants.
Even though these core elements can be found in all games, not all gamification is created equal. Successful strategies come down to the following factors:
Make the implementation fun and worthwhile for your target audience. No one will participate unless there’s some form of derived value. The most commonly used gamification strategy is a “passport” program or scavenger hunt. These are utilized by mobile apps and games and cross over between the virtual world, and the real world. The end result of these games is valued prizes (material or virtual) which makes it worthwhile for attendees to “visit” locations and learn about showcased products and services.
Understand the goals and desired behaviors you want from the players before creating the gamification parameters. Continuing with the example of a passport program or scavenger hunt, the desired behavior may be for players to learn more about a product or service. The game could encourage player engagement by asking questions about the product or service. To ensure they successfully engage at the specified locations and with the desired products and services, players receive a stamp or award for successful answers.
Create motivation for the players with various positive feedback systems such as achievement badges, top scores/players, loyalty points which can translate to “free” items or gain virtual goods. This allows you to encourage the desired behavior through a small award system, while tempting the player with a larger prize at the end of their quest.
Keep the engagement mechanics of the gamified system at the forefront of all planning (challenges, quests, engagement loops, etc...). Make sure the activities are interesting enough for the users to want to be engaged, and use motivational badges and awards along the way to encourages players to continue with their quest.
- Successful implementations take extensive research and an understanding of your players. This means understanding their mindset, including what drives them and how their behaviors can drive loyalty to your product/brand.
For more in-depth studies, refer to the following books:
- Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps” by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham
- Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” by Jane McGonigal