This week, the Exchange is joined by Gamification evangelist Andrzej Marczewski, independent blogger and author of Gaming review site Yet Another Review Site, who answers our member’s questions on Gamification.
In a few words, what is ‘Gamification’?
AM: This is the key question a lot of people are spending too much of their time trying to answer! Normally you will get a definition like this:
“The application of gaming elements to real life tasks to influence behaviour, improve motivation and enhance engagement”.
It all revolves around the idea that games are fun and engaging, so why don’t we take some of that and apply it to tasks that are not intrinsically engaging in their own right? The most commonly seen examples of this center around points, badges and ladders (such as loyalty schemes, FourSquare etc.)
However, it can range from creating a full blown game-like experience to achieving a real world task (Digitalkoot), to just using a bit of behavioral psychology to nudge the way consumers use a system. I will be honest, some will argue that full games are not gamification, but they are serious games. Personally, I don’t like making that distinction – but it is worth noting that generally people will.
Can these Gamification principles be adopted into any business, service or product?
AM: Yes! That’s sort of like asking can a piece of paper be written on with pens as well as pencils. Gamification, for me, is very broad in terms of what it can encompass. You have to be careful what aspects you use in what situations, but I feel there is something that should fit any situation – you just have to look for it.
There are examples of where gamification has not been implemented as effectively as it could have been. I have never really liked the way FourSquare uses game mechanics. For me it is all too superficial; I became mayor of a hotel I was staying at the other day, by checking in twice. How does that reward have any meaning? Why should I care that I got a meaningless and arbitrary coffee badge for checking in at a Starbucks? Now, FourSquare is more than that, it is a recommendation engine and really the gamification elements have been very, very successful at onboarding millions of people, but the shelf life for individuals in a system that relies so heavily on extrinsic rewards is always going to be limited.
Any system that revolves around using JUST points, badges and ladders and expects to have long-term engagement is getting it wrong. In one off, short campaigns, leader boards and the like can be a bit of fun and act as very useful feedback, collecting badges can be fun at first. However, for anything beyond the shortest of campaigns, people will hit ‘badge fatigue’ pretty fast.
Which innovative examples of Gamification have impressed you the most?
AM: For me, the big flashy gamification examples out there tend not to impress me all that much; more often than not, they are very superficial layers pasted on top of pretty standard systems. That being said, there are a couple that I like that take a much less glitzy approach.
I bang on about Giff Gaff quite a lot. They are a UK mobile network operator who provides really good rates because of a simple yet highly effective gamified idea. The users handle the bulk of technical support and marketing. Need to know how to cut your SIM to fit an iPhone? A user has created a template for that. Scared to use scissors? A group of users have bought some SIM cutters you can borrow. It is all done through a forum; points are awarded for good support and these points go towards money off your tariff.
The same goes for marketing. The more SIMS you can give away to people who sign up (using custom links and even custom pages the site provides), the more points you get. This keys into a great extrinsic and a great intrinsic set of motivators. Intrinsically, people love to feel they are helping others – altruism. It gives them a feeling that what they are doing has some kind of meaning or purpose. Extrinsically, they get money off their mobile tariff – a win-win situation and really simple when you think about it!
Another example that I really like is LinkedIn. They are currently (either consciously or not) using a couple of simple, but very effective types of gamification. One aspect is the use of a little blue progress bar, showing you how much of your profile you have completed. Somewhere, in the back of our minds, this kind of feedback drives people to want to complete. It is intrinsically rewarding to complete things; games, books, educational courses, questions and profiles. Seeing 75% is just not good enough. Apparently, after adding this, LinkedIn reported a very sharp increase in the number of people completing their profiles!
I think my favourite example at the moment is Zombies Run. Zombies Run takes a different approach to other gamified running apps that give you badges and points and put you on leader board based on how well you perform. It puts you as the lead character in a story. After crashing in a Zombie-infested area, you are guided to a fortified town by a group of survivors. You hear them giving you background and playing your music as you run. As you run in real life, the game informs you of things you have collected that can be used to help build up this virtual village. But the really good bit is the Zombie attacks. All of a sudden the person on the radio will inform you of an impending zombie swarm and that you have to pick up the pace. As you run faster, there is a beep that grows in speed and intensity as the Zombies close it – making you push just a little harder.
You have referenced extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Can you explain the difference?
Extrinsic rewards are things or representations of things that could be considered as rewards. Money, badges, points, position on a leader board, discounts. All of these are extrinsic rewards. You use the chance to get these as a way to motivate people to do a task – like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. However, contrary to popular belief, these are not actually things that motivate us as human beings. We often want them, but they do not hook into our deepest desires, our intrinsic motivators. In some cases, they can actually de-motivate.
We can group true intrinsic motivation into three things: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. We like to have choice, to be in control of what we are doing. We like to feel that we are getting better at things, learning and improving. We also like to feel that there is a reason to do what we are doing. Maybe there is a higher purpose (in game terms Epic Meaning). You will often see relatedness mentioned as well (sometimes instead of purpose). This is our desire to work with other people, to be part of a group or a herd. When I talk about gamification, I tend to talk in terms of Social needs rather than relatedness, but it is all the same thing. It is more fun to play with other people after all!
Improved Consumer engagement is a heralded benefit of Gamification; does the approach go beyond just engaging the consumer more effectively?
Engagement is just part of it all and it really depends what you are trying to achieve. You may be trying to change the buying habits of your customers, promote brand loyalty or motivate customers to leave feedback or more.
Very often shops have loyalty cards. The idea of this is that they will reward you through points if you continue to be loyal and shop with them. For some, this is really important; they will go out of their way to get their Nectar points, or find a Tesco so that they can use their club cards.
Amazon makes great use of personalisation to make keep buyers loyal to them. Rather than giving points and financial incentives, they use the data they have on your buying style to send you recommendations. This kind of “personal touch” can help to build loyalty to your brand, it gives the impression that the company really knows and values you as an individual.
Another example that seems to fly in the face of my previous statements about systems that rely purely on points, is an app on iPhone called Daily Free Apps. It is one of those apps that lets you download paid apps for free. They reward repeat visits with experience points. Once you get a certain number of points, you get a coin. Coins can be traded in for special secret free apps, not available to people who don’t return on consecutive days. In games, this is called the appointment mechanic. Because I know I can get potentially better apps, I will return each day to gather more coins.
Feedback is very important to companies. Without it, they have no idea how they are performing from the customer’s perspective. The problem with getting feedback is that it tends to involve a tedious form. In Argos they have a great way around this. At the counter, they have a little machine with questions printed on it and buttons to press. People love being able to interact with real world objects. All you do is press a few buttons to tell Argos what you thought of the service.
To read more about Gamification, Andrzej’s blog can be found at www.marczewski.me.uk