Gamification: What it is NOT

Some years ago I’ve co-founded a game studio here in Brazil, called “Mukutu Game Studio” and I‚Äôve been studying and working professionally with games for several years now.

As an Art Director or an Lead Developer / Engineer – yes, this can happen ūüôā – I always loved making – or “crafting” – things that people would appreciate and enjoy … some years ago I’ve discovered the term User Experience, or UX, and became an enthusiast of that too because it was exactly what I was looking for.

In the past few years the term “gamification” also crossed my way and I’m now trying to integrate gamification with my previous experiences and use this amazing resource to craft even better experiences.


So let’s talk about gamification ūüôā

 

What Gamification is … NOT

Let me try to explain what gamification is not and it’ll be more easy to understand what it is.

 

1) A game

Gamification is not a game by itself.

Gamification takes core¬†elements from games that makes them playful, fun and enjoyable and uses them to create better experiences in our real life. These elements are based on human behaviours or motivators, for example: our desire for “freedom” or autonomy, our desire for¬†public recognition or for¬†achieve / doing something great etc.

In Jane McGonigal‘s book, “The Reality is Broken”, you’ll find four basic categories that must be present in any game which are: Objectives, Rules, Feedback System¬†and Voluntary Participation. These four categories are directly related to the human motivators.

The Objectives are the reason why the player is playing or the user is interacting with the gamified experience. What are the human motivators? What they want to achieve? The purpose?

The Rules will define what players / users can do and what they can’t do to achieve their objectives.

The Feedback System will show them where they are, how close they are to achieve their goals or how close they are to lose their goals.

The final one, Voluntary Participation, represents our freedom or autonomy to choose what we want to do, to play or not. It represents the player’s acceptance of the other categories. For me it also represents the difference between “I want do this” and “I have to / must do this”. This is the “voluntary acceptance of unnecessary obstacles”, the players must find the game meaningful so they voluntarily agree to play by the rules, accept the objectives etc.

 

2) Points, Badges and Leaderboards

Yes, Gamification uses these elements but they are the most common and basic elements that you can find in a gamified experience and also the most common elements that you’ll find in games. Notice that you can fit any of these elements in the four basic categories mentioned above. Badges,¬†for example, are symbols that can be used as a Objective and / or as part of the Feedback System to indicate the player’s progress. You can also fit it in human motivators. In this case it can be a way to obtain public recognition¬†and / or a sense of achieving something great.

 

3) Easy

Just based on what I wrote above you can see that Gamification is not an easy thing to do or to learn, not even close to that. There’s a lot of fields to explore like Psychology / Human Behaviour and Desires / Culture / Marketing / Economics etc like Kevin Werbach¬†always suggests in his classes. The sum of all these fields will give you the base to build your Gamification knowledge … of course, I’m still building mine ūüėČ

Another problem that you may find when implementing gamified experiences is the cultural barrier. Its very easy to find examples on the web about companies who refused to implement gamified experiences in their projects because they think that Gamification will change the way the company is seen in the market. You’ll find something like: “This [Gamification] is for children and my customers are adults!” or even “My customers don’t want to play” …

One way to deal with that is to show some numbers. HUGE numbers:

–¬†¬†$66 billion, up from $63 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to $78 billion in 2017

–¬†Online revenue, including digital delivery, subscriptions, Facebook games: $24 billion, up from $21 billion in 2012

–¬†Activision Blizzard Annual revenue: $4.99 billion Top franchises: “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft”

–¬†China: 34% increase in games revenue (2012)

30 years is the average age of players

45% of the gamers are female

3 billion hours per week playing video games in the planet

 Sources: Reuters, ESA, TED / Jane McGonigal

With that said (and there’s lot of info out there) , I can tell not only that the game industry is here to stay but that Gamification is the future of Design!

 

4) Silver bullet problem solving

Gamification is not¬†the solution for everything. In fact, when designing gamified experiences for online platforms, i like to think that Gamification will not work as expected if your platform have some kind of problem. If your project have usability problems, is not visually attractive, does not have a good Information Architecture or, generally speaking, doesn’t provide at least a good User Experience, you will not succeed by just implementing Gamification. You must have your house cleaned up before buying that beautiful carpet … Do not buy the carpet to hide the dirty.

Remember that you can also use Gamification for solving real life problems, like my friends at Warriors Without Weapons. In this case I think the purpose is the most important thing and Gamification comes as boost for the entire social experience and not just as a engagement boosting tool.

 

5) Is made for commercial purposes only

WRONG! Gamification can help dealing with real world problems. Actually, as I said before, you can easily find examples around the world where Gamification is a very important tool to deal with social / economic problems.

Here are some of them:

–¬†Warriors Without Weapons

Games for Change

– Serious Games

A list from Yu-kai Chou ūüôā

 

5) And the list goes on and on

I’ll keep this post updated with more NOTs for gamification and probably some definition updates as I learn more too ūüėČ