Gamify with Gamification by Design

by Adam Loving on September 3, 2011

Gamification is the use of game thinking and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. While it can be applied to anything, I’m interested in gamifying non-game web applications, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications and use them more frequently. I’m currently working for BigDoor, a gamification platform. BigDoor’s gamification API has everything you need to gamify.

O’Reilly press just released a new book called Gamification by Design. Here are the key points I thought were insightful from the book.

  • Game mechanics cannot solve fundamental business problems.
  • Everything has the potential to be fun.
  • With the introduction of a virtual currency, people lose track of value
  • Loyalty is less about free stuff than it is about status.
  • If you don’t have a ton of cash to give away as an incentive (who does?), status is an excellent alternative.
  • It is the depth of meaning of the game that matters, not the monetary value of the prize.
  • No matter what the player thinks, the house will always win a well-designed game. Like any casino manager will tell you, while the illusion of winning is vital to motivating use and play, actually winning is much harder than it seems.
  • Through the careful interplay of system and player, and a relentless belief in testing those interactions to find that point between anxiety and boredom.
  • Not surprisingly, fixed-interval reinforcement schedules tend to yield low levels of engagement
  • The average person is looking to socialize, not win. Winning is not what drives society. If designers begin by thinking the game is about achievement, they will at some point realize they are wrong

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Thanks for sharing, you just leveled up! Here is the secret stuff.

  • Cash rewards are bad for incentivizing creative thought.
  • Long-term social status rewards can be particularly effective at nurturing creativity and play.
  • If you crush intrinsic motivation with extrinsic rewards, your player will never come back.
  • Intrinsic motivators create greatness, while extrinsic motivators are nothing more than pellets dropped for rats in a cage. Our fundamental observation is that when something is designed well, it feels intrinsic to the player.
  • We are helping people, to some extent, reach a higher potential—and to discover things about themselves that they didn’t already know
  • A good extrinsic motivation is a good map to intrinsic motivation.
  • Be their Sherpa. Give them the status, access, power and stuff that gets them where they need to go. Do it right and they’ll forever be yours.
  • The first minute a player spends with your system is not the time to explain anything to anyone. Instead, allow the player to experience the site
  • While a user may not explicitly recognize micro achievements as a source of deep satisfaction, they are.
  • Games don’t have to be complex, but they need to have either defined or implied winning conditions. For example, getting more points in a week than a friend, or achieving an enviable status.

I highly recommed the book as an introduction to gamification. I have many more highlights to cover in a future post. For more see my earlier post on good gamification vs. bad gamification.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark McLaren September 9, 2011 at 12:31 am

@adamloving – Fascinating stuff. So many interesting points. Thanks for distilling them for us.

Online marketers should be all over this. Gamification has the potential to improve every stage of the sales funnel.

Does Gamification by Design make you rethink any of the ideas you expressed in your “good gamification vs. bad gamification” post?

morya January 5, 2012 at 10:51 am

Online marketers should be all over this. Gamification has the potential to improve every stage of the sales funnel.

krish May 2, 2012 at 5:56 am

I was struck with this line “It is the depth of meaning of the game that matters, not the monetary value of the prize.” I remembered my younger brother who really plays pc games a lot, he does it to make money. Now, with your note, I was quite reflecting if my brother really sees importance and fulfillment in such games when in fact he aims for money only. hmmm..

- Krish

Martin Smith October 25, 2013 at 6:47 am

Great post and I will pick up the book (they are always solid and worth the extra cash for the brand). I wrote a gamification white paper for AtlanticBT.com’s blog just as the Google trends chart started pointing north.

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