Nestled deep in the rabbit warren of pubs, greasy spoons, shabby offices and warehouses that span the south eastern corner of Shoreditch, lies Google Campus; an unassuming dark building that houses a hive of activity. On late Tuesday afternoon, it played host to a talk on gamification presented by Scott Schnaars, general manager of Badgeville EMEA.
Given the choice of a more general talk on why gamification is ‘beyond badges’ and another, less rehearsed more complex presentation about the psychology and mechanics that underpins the phenomenon, the assembled tech-heads inevitably plumped for option two.
During the hour’s talk, Schnaars refined the definition of gamification and detailed the key, universal motivators that the practice depends upon. Gamification, is a means of behavioural modification that involves using certain elements common to games (although, as became apparent during the talk, it’s not quite that simple...).
The key motivators Schnaars outlined related to the human desire for personal growth. This ‘growth’, he explained can fall under one of four broad categories: learning, overcoming challenges, nurturing social connections and building order. Looking at a variety of games and online experiences, Schnaars explored how each of them tapped into these facets. Traditional video games exploit our desire to learn new skills (these combo attacks take real practice…) and overcome challenges, while something like Farmville involves little learning but exploits our desire to grow connections and create an ordered, structured world. Facebook nails the social element of human growth, but the winner, by a mile in Schnaars’ eyes, was World of Warcraft.
So how can one put these ideas into action to encourage engagement and modify consumer behaviour? There are various ‘mechanics’ which can be leveraged. Game mechanics involve rewarding desired behaviours with real time notificaitons, achievement collections, competition and an explicit list of tasks. Reputation mechanics reward the individual by boosting their status via leaderboards, recognition of expertise and exclusive privileges. Finally social mechanics leverage engagement by providing the opportunity to nurture social connections, by setting up teams, giving ‘activity streams’ or newsfeeds from friends, and the ability to follow or recommend others.
There were, however, several notes of caution as Schnaars warned against blind and blanket applications of gamification. For one thing, he noted, using a vintage Simpsons clip to illustrate, gamification alone will not turn a dull experience or product into a fun one. He also observed that, contrary to the understanding of some agencies and consultancies, the concept of ‘gamification’ is not the same thing as ‘game’. For example, while a game involves an element of imagination and fantasy, the facet of games is often inappropriate to a gamification exercise as it distracts from the core behaviour one is trying to encourage and changes the context.
After the talk, conversation between the audience and Schnaars traversed several aspects of gamification, from its suitability for charity organisations, to how start-ups can use gamification.