Gamification. It’s one of the ‘buzz phrases’ of the last year (along with ‘Pivot’ etc) – and, although overused, – much of its popularity is for good reason.
Since beginning working with a Social Gaming startup about 6 months ago – I’ve had my eyes opened to the wonders of ‘game mechanics’ and the impact they can have on a website, business or game. Considering that before this I hadn’t played a computer game since a Match Day II addiction in the late ’80s, I believe my ‘freshness’ to this gaming has allowed me a certain awareness of these game mechanics that others, perhaps in the industry a longer time, may take for granted.
In this post I explain what game mechanics and gamification is, as well as sharing some gamification examples
But first: What are game mechanics or Gamification? Game mechanics are items used in games that make them addictive, makes you want to win and makes you want to tell your friends about them. They’re the activities that happen in a game that make it fun, and make you want to come back for more. Sounds good yah! Using these game mechanics in non game type businesses = gamification. Make sense? Awesome
There are some really high impact game mechanics out there – some of which resulted in our startup acquiring literally hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of weeks for zero cost (nice!). I will go into the specifics of these in later posts – but the purpose of this post is to introduce some of the fundamental game mechanics that any business/startup could implement pretty easily.
Before I begin – I’d just like to make the note that introducing any of these game mechanics to your business will almost certainly have a big impact on……..something. Just make sure it’s making the right kind of impact (I’ll share an example of it going wrong at the bottom of the post).
5 Gamification Examples You Kneed to Know
Rewarding people points for participation – points give people feedback on how well they are progressing through the game, and allows them to show others how good they are. So simple yet so effective.
Behavior influenced: Retention & increased engagement (more you come back and play – better you get)
Examples of points are everywhere – Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are all examples – the more followers (points) you have – the more influential you are – supposedly. (and there is now an companies that help people game these game mechanics to look more influential – oh the irony 🙂
And once we have points, we can create………..
2 – Leaderboards
The ostentatious collection of the above – leaderboards by their very layout, makes us competitive and want to win = increased engagement
Behaviour influenced: Retention, increased engagement & acquisition (the game is more fun, when your friends are involved)
Examples of leaderboards: Any Business development chart that shows performance of sales staff
3 – Collecting
Collecting rewards us for repeated behaviours. We like to be rewarded if we do something well – and we like others to know how good we are. One of the most common examples of how this is displayed is through ‘badges’ e.g. get 50 instore points to receive a gold badge
Behaviour influenced: Retention & increased engagement
Examples of Collecting: Unlocking the Mayor of Starbucks badge
4 – Customizaton
Once you put your personal touch on anything – you want to spend more time in it, and have others see it. This is the same for your house, your car……or your myspace, Facebook or Linkedin profiles!
Behaviour influenced: Retention (once it feels like home, you want to come back and visit as often as possible)
Examples of Customisation: The entire industry that popped up around pimping myspace profiles OR how 37signals prompt you to customise your profile in Basecamp before anything else – why do they do this? I bet $$$$ it’s because they tested it and saw that leads to increased retention
Another simple yet stupidly effective mechanic – we all use exchanges every day. It’s one of the most basic human behaviours – it;s your tuen, it;s my turn etc. Conversations: I speak, then you speak etc
Exchanges work particularly well on the web as it brings in that lovely psychological factor called ‘reciprocation’ = which is a much proven behavior that if someone does something nice to you – it is in our human DNA to want to give them something in return. It’s a powerful piece of persuasion and many marketers take advantage of this.
Behaviour influenced: Retention
Examples: of Exchanges: Just check out the hottest new game to hit the market in the past 2 months. OMGPOP’s Draw Something. This game is built on this principle or exchanges – and they’ve had 50 million downloads in the past 50 days. None too shabby!
See them in action
If you’d like to see obvious examples game mechanics in action – go to Zynga or Wooga – they are absolute masters at this stuff, and rest assured that anything they have live on their site, has been A/B tested and optimised to its most effective state (just don’t get too addicted when you‘re there)
Example of it used badly:
When Yahoo launched Yahoo answers, they rewarded people for submitting answers to questions. It worked – in as much as they recieced a HUGE number of answers to questions. Thee trouble was, they were rewarding users for submitting answers, but not on the quality of the answers.
The game mechanic (points & badges) worked – but it was driving the wrong behaviour!