Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts on Gamification Design

Recently a couple of student projects that I was mentoring faced with designing the gamification of a website and a high-end step-o-meter. Needless to say this sparked my interest in the topic, and since I wanted to be able to suggest the appropriate design tools and processes, I have been contemplating gamification from a design perspective. It also gave me a moment to reconnect some ideas that were inspired by a Professor I met in Japan a few years ago, which in retrospect our conversation was about gamification. 

First, so you know more or less my perspective, I associate Gamification as a kind Applied Game (a.k.a serious games, persuasive games, games with a purpose, etc.). At first glance, gamification seems a buzz word for saying it’s okay to do that chocolate-covered-broccoli-thing, which has been used to describe the approach to early edutainment games (Bruckmann 1999). From the perspective of game design, gamification has the potential to be more than just adding points, leader boards and achievements to a non-game artifact. By artifact I mean anything man-made including systems, organizations, goods and services. Gamification from a design perspective is not about making a game, rather it is more about barrowing game mechanics and play mechanics from all sorts of games. These are then applied to an artifact to create a change in motivation or behavior in the consumer-user-player. Thus my definition of gamification would exclude games created to fit together with existing artifacts (a game embedded on a website or games played within a classroom). I would argue that these belong to another category of applied games.

Would you work at a gamified company? Is a question I love to ask my co-workers. I think this question brings up some interesting dilemmas. If designed correctly, I think it is realistic to gamify a company to increase motivation, productivity, communication, creativity, and competition. Examples of gamification can already be found applied to training, wellness, websites and sports. In future applications, Gamification could potentially be applied to any organization (e.g. governments, schools and businesses). In a less ambitious way, gamification could also be used to achieve micro-goals, like the use of game-like tutorials for everyday appliances instead instruction manuals, or maybe encourage users to explore all of your website.

If you want to catch up on the current gamification discourse, I suggest watching the talks from Jesse Schell and Seth Priebatsch. You may also want to follow @Gamify, @ibogost, @avantgame on twitter, they often share many related links or provide interesting observations. I also suggest reading through this report made on the Gamification Summit 2011 by @Krochmal.