Posts Tagged ‘gamify’

I didn’t get a chance to hear the presentation by Wanda Meloni of M2 Research. But she gave an overview of the Gamification industry, including vendors, spending, and a few interesting trends in her slides:

I have a bunch of stray notes and quotes from the various panels of Day 1 of the Gamification Summit. In most cases, I’m not sure who said what. But the messages stuck with me, so I wanted to round up a few of the most important points I heard during the day.


One representative of a shopping company using game mechanics noted no one on the staff was really an expert on gaming. They were using badges, levels and points. But they launched without figuring out what the “elder game” was. That is, the core experience that would sustain players over the long haul. “That motivation is what will make a game durable.” What I heard over and over is that game design should start with thinking about the core experience, rather than looking at the tools and levers you can use.


On good gamification design: “If the first word that comes out of their mouths is, ‘Oh, this is a game,’ then we haven’t done our job well.” Gamifying a site should be subtle, with users/players not necessarily knowing that they are entering a game.


“How do you optimize the user expectation?”

“You have to have some kind of community within your brand. You can use these techniques to turbo charge that community.”

“If you’re a content company today, you have to add community if you want to compete in the global marketplace. Gamification can be the social glue that brings this all together.”

I recently interviewed Jane McGonigal for my day job at the Mercury News. The subject was her new book, “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” I just finished it myself, and can’t recommend it enough. In particular, the first one-third of the book breaks down the elements of good game design in a way I found very instructive. I’m going to post my notes from that soon.

In the meantime, McGonigal gave the keynote at the Gamification Summit, and I wanted to share some of her additional thoughts. Mostly, these are some random quotes I found of interest:

“We become better versions of ourselves when we’re in games.”

Her definition of a game: “Games are unnecessary obstacles we volunteer to tackle.” She noted that definition doesn’t say anything about graphics or interactivity.

“We invest 3 billion hours weekly playing online games because we are not challenged enough in our real lives.”

“I don’t think this is about making games fun and easier for our users. I think games are about tackling things that are harder for us, for the fun of it.”

“Why are we spending so much time tackling unnecessary tasks?”

One answer: “People want to be connected to something larger than themselves. They want to do things that have meaning.”

(My note: I think news organizations are in the perfect position to design something that taps into our higher aspirations to help our neighbors and our communities).

“If you’re trying to gamfiy something, you should be looking to turn them into super empowered helpful users. That’s what we become when we play a good game.”

“People prefer cooperation games to competitive ones by 3 to 1. If you look at what’s happening in gaming, most people don’t want to compete. They want to work with their friends to achieve a common goal.”

As I proceed with this project, I’m going to post notes periodically about things I’m learning. For experienced game designers, much of this will be old hat, of course. But I want to leave a bit of a trail for others new to these concepts to follow along, if they wish.

I’m going to start with notes from the various sessions I attended last week at the Gamification Summit. The host was Gabe Zichermann, who opened the day with this definition of “gamification”:

“Gamification is the process of using game thinking & dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems.”

For me, engagement has what has really attracted me to this concept. The engagement factor with well-designed games is off the charts. And yet typical news Web sites have struggled to be more than just a place where people read one story and then move on. Engagement can also drive loyalty, as Zichermann noted. And of course, a wide range of industries have had loyalty programs for decades. Frequent flyer programs being just one example.

Engagement is about more than just page views. It opens up new kinds of monetization. As Zichermann said, this is a secret that game designers understand: “The most engaged user pays more.”

But how to create that engagement? That’s a complex question. Zichermann said one of the key elements is understanding what kind of rewards you can offer, and how these are valued by “players.” Zichermann outlined the four major categories of rewards that players want in order using what he called the “SAPS” system:

  • Status
  • Access
  • Power
  • Stuff

Though maybe not the first step, this is a key area obviously for a news organization to think about deeply and creatively. There are a lot of things we could give users that have nothing to do with money or deals.

The other important theme that I’m hearing is how deeply social games are in general. “Throughout the whole arc of human history, games have been social,” Zichermann said.

Game designers break players down into four archetypes using something called: “Bartle’s Player Types”:

  • Killer
  • Achiever
  • Socializer
  • Explorer

Richard Bartle, a British researcher, defined these types as follows:

  1. Achievement within the game context: Players give themselves game-related goals, and vigorously set out to achieve them. This usually means accumulating and disposing of large quantities of high-value treasure, or cutting a swathe through hordes of mobiles (ie. monsters built in to the virtual world).
  2. Exploration of the game: Players try to find out as much as they can about the virtual world. Although initially this means mapping its topology (ie. exploring the MUD’s breadth), later it advances to experimentation with its physics (ie. exploring the MUD’s depth).
  3. Socialising with others: Players use the game’s communicative facilities, and apply the role-playing that these engender, as a context in which to converse (and otherwise interact) with their fellow players.
  4. Imposition upon others (killers):Players use the tools provided by the game to cause distress to (or, in rare circumstances, to help) other players. Where permitted, this usually involves acquiring some weapon and applying it enthusiastically to the persona of another player in the game world.

One of the keys to designing the game is to understand who your players are? That will help map out what their emotional motivations, and then what kind of rewards might or might not work best. Bartle notes that some players drift between different categories, but largely exist in one of them.

Finally, Zichermann noted that it was important to think broadly about the whole game experience that you want to create. People to take to just sticking badges or leaderboards or other random mechanics on their site are largely missing the point and the potential of gamification. It’s likely these slapdash efforts won’d deliver many dividends, and that will sour people on the concept in general.