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What does gamification look like?

Lately, I have been networking far outside the circle of gamification enthusiasts and the general rule is that most people in business still don’t know what gamification is and what it could possibly look like. When you are working in the field for years, you tend to forget that what is normal for you may not be normal for everyone else. Or at the least, the terminology may not be familiar.

What is gamification?

The definition I use for gamification is the application of game psychology and game dynamics and game mechanics to a non-game situation such as business processes.

In more real terms this definition translates a bit like this into an example. The game mechanic of a leaderboard may by default introduce the game dynamic of competition, which also by its nature brings in a whole load of psychological and behavioural elements for users of the process. A leaderboard in learning may track those that log in most often, which then encourages that kind of behaviour more. (btw ideally it should be set to track what you want more of and logging in may not be most appropriate)

Where have you seen gamification

Gamification has crept into a lot of our applications and most people don’t realise it is gamification. So here are some examples of applications you may have been using for some time:

LinkedIn example

LinkedIn has used gamification from the early days (and so have most other social media platforms). If you think of the game statistics shown in any game in what is called the heads up display is shows your scores. LinkedIn shows me my scores in terms of profile views, post views, activity, likes, etc. they don’t just show me once but in several places. The frequency is subliminally encouraging me to pay attention and improve on what I have in numbers.

On my LinkedIn profile, when I look at my profile or try to improve it I see the private dashboard. There I also find my status of “All-Star” which used to measure profile completeness and how you do against your peers.

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Zoho CRM – achievements

In my customer relationship management system, I have a set of achievements to collect all related to sales and customer relations. They are triggered by regular sales activity. As a systems administrator, I can set more achievements and create rules to earn them.

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Duolingo

The language learning application Duolingo has been gamified from the start. Some of their game elements are used to encourage regular to practise because they know regular practice improves language ability. In fact, they want you to do a little bit every day. As an interesting fact, the longest standing unbroken practice streak was 7 years.

I earn levels based on practice and mastery of vocabulary. Keeping up the practice unlocks new vocabulary and increases my levels of mastery.

what does gamification look like

What makes something a game then?

What all the above examples have in common is that you stay in the process of social networking for LinkedIn, you enter the regular sales information in Zoho, you continue your learning in Duolingo. The game elements are shown as a result of activities in the business process you are doing anyway. That is what makes it gamification.

For it to become a game, you would need to leave the process and enter a game environment. For example, a business simulation you actually are playing in that environment and may pick up achievements and learn in the environment. But typically this includes a debrief to extract the true learning and make the links back to your real job.

Games provide a safe environment to test and learn new skills in. Gamification gives you the nudges and reinforcement of behaviour you want to encourage more of whilst people remain engaged in their daily work. I hope you can now recognise gamification a bit more in your daily use of apps and work software.

 

Gamification for diversity and inclusion

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Storylines that work for business gamification

In gamification design, the narrative or storyline is often what makes a campaign or intervention stick together. Most great games, movies and books similarly have story arcs and plots that make them engaging. In my upcoming book ‘winning at the infinite game of learning gamification,’ I am dedicating a whole chapter to story arcs that work for learning. And as it is International Storytelling day today, here are 3 top storylines that I think can work in business gamification from marketing to learning etc.

1. The quest

A character goes in search of a person, a place or a thing and in their search they overcome obstacles in order to find what they are looking for. Each action taken has a cause and effect, in other words, a reason to exist. The decision points and their consequences are what makes the quest and interesting storyline for many business uses.

2. The adventure

An adventure plot is much more about exploring. Adventure stories take you into the world, an ever-expanding bigger, wider world with new and strange places, and strange events, things that you have never done before. The hero goes in search of fortune, it’s never found in their back garden. You, you have to travel in order to find it. And your hero should be motivated by someone or something to begin the adventure.

3. Rivalry

Who doesn’t like an interesting bit of competition or rivalry? In a rivalry plot, the source of your conflict should come as a result of an irresistible force meeting causing a struggle for power between a protagonist and antagonist. The two adversaries should be equally matched. Although their strength need not match exactly, they should have compensating strengths or powerful companions, which can balance out the fight.

General rules for picking storylines in gamification

Here are the questions I recommend asking before you start your story-driven design:

  • Does it suit my topic?
  • Will my target audience benefit from it? If so, how?
  • Is it on brand? is it portraying values we want to portray?
  • Will the story arch enhance the gamified experience?
  • What game type matches your storyline?

 

What is social media teaching us about social gamification?

Remember to apply for our Board game design mastermind

Board game design mastermind

 

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What are win conditions and end games in gamification design?

In both gamification design and game design, we want to know the end game from the early design phases onwards. The end game typically is constructed at the beginning based on the chosen outcomes for the project as well as the win conditions selected for the game. Understanding the difference is not always that easy for clients that are unfamiliar with game design in general.

Imagine you are creating a gamification design related to the recruitment process, the objective is to attract more people to apply and enter the process. The gamification design hence is about attraction and encouraging people to enter the recruitment process to earn the right for an interview, which would be the end game. The win conditions are related to entering the process and then successful milestone completion of tasks to do with the recruitment process. The ultimate win obviously also to unlock the right to be invited for an interview.

The action or conditions that equal ‘game over’ is what we call in technical jargon the end game. The celebrations and encouragement to someone there and to indicate they are winning are the win conditions.

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In a board game like Monopoly, the win conditions are around buying as many streets and build houses and hotels on them in order to earn the most money. The end game is when only one person is left in play with probably all the hotels and lots of money and the others unable to play on due to lack of money to pay rents on the other players’ streets.

When we work with companies on their gamification design and game designs, the objectives of the project become part of either the end game or the win conditions. Typically the end-game is when you hit success and the game stops running. You can then decide to play again or run the gamified process again for a different role for example.

If you want to learn to apply this theory to a board game, consider taking part in our board game design mastermind:

Board game design mastermind

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How to choose between a game or gamification?

How to choose between a game and gamification is often where our clients start asking us questions. A game typically takes places outside of a work process and gets players into a player environment. If you think of board game where they sit down around the table, whilst it may take place in a learning environment or at a conference, they will get into a different mindset to go and play. The same if your game is digital and it requires entering a game world for example. The very virtue of changing setting may have upsides and downsides.

In gamification we typically stay in the process, so the points unlocked in your loyalty program are for being loyal to the company. The badges unlocked for course completion or task completion in a CRM still are a result of direct actions in the learning or sales process. If you think of your exercise apps such as Runkeeper or Fitbit or a range of others, you are still staying in the process of exercising yet it encourages you to keep going or coming back more often.

I hope that already gives you a basic understanding of the difference between the two. Making the choice will largely depend on your objectives and the type of experience you are trying to create.

When is it better to use games?

Games are good to allow people to test out new skills in a safe setting and learn about the consequences of getting it wrong from time to time. It works when you want people to step out of the process and think differently.

I use games to explain complex concepts. The gamification card deck we created helps us explain the key elements of a game to people that don’t play and often also admit to not liking games. It explains the concept of win conditions and gives a choice of game mechanics, which are hard to fathom if you are not really into games at all. For me, it means that workshops are a lot easier and take less conceptual debate before people get productive.

We created a few levels of a first-person shooter where players threw water bombs at passing cars to learn about CO2 emissions. The game was aimed at children in primary education to learn about the impact of CO2 on the environment. It was designed to be used as a teaser for more in-depth learning about emissions. Aiming to raise curiosity.

For behaviour change, a game can be a good starting point. For increased communication, a board game creates an ideal setting to get people talking about the same topic. It can be a powerful component in the mix.

When is it better to use gamification?

When the focus is on reinforcing behaviour as part of a process. Productivity can be enhanced with nudges, and gentle reminders to celebrate milestone achievements. The look and feel of gamification is similar to what you experience on platforms like LinkedIn with a progress bar and status indicator telling you how complete your profile is. Or a Stack Overflow forum experience where both questions and answers are rated by peers to help the best answers rise to the top.

In my view it is less intrusive than a game because it doesn’t require you to step out into a game environment, you just simply keep doing what you are doing already. When I am logging my calls in my sales system, I smile when it gives me a random badge of achievement. I read a lot of books and I love the addition of how much I still have to go. Purely because it gives me a sense of control and achievement.

In my view, the feeling you are trying to create is what should drive the choice. In addition to the objective, you are trying to reach.

Speak to us to help you work it out, if you are not sure.

Why board games can be more effective than e-learning?

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Why boardgames can be more effective than e-learning?

Board games and card games in the world, in general, are going through a bit of a revival. We see it as a bit of a backlash against all things digital and maybe it is also somewhat encouraged by people who grew up playing games both digital and non-digital. In terms of use in companies as a tool for communication or learning, we also experience increased demand.

I would even go as far as saying that board and card games can be more effective than a digital tool for learning and communication when you require social engagement and learning by doing. Here are the key benefits I see for physical games in a workplace setting:

Social by default

The advantage of a board game is that it is social by default. Basically, you need to sit down around a table and play together with the other players. Even if they don’t know each other very well, the game will provide the common ground and in some ways an icebreaker to evolve. In contrast to most e-learning, the game is enhanced through conversation around the table and stimulates joint decision making.

Just think about the family get-togethers where board games featured. In our house it was Monopoly and I swear my sister rigged it so she had hotels on the most exclusive street each and every time. And the rest of us spent time in jail or going bankrupt. You probably can remember the banter and conversations from some of these nights.

A board game in some way is an enabler to spend fun time together and to create lasting memories. Adults learn best in context and learning is often social. When we are trying to make sense of something passing it by others is not an unusual strategy.

Safe to fail in public

In workplace learning losing face is not a desired experience for most of us. We are at the end of the day judged on our performance, so if in a live course or an online program are shown up to be the ‘one dummy’ that doesn’t get it the feeling of losing face comes up. In a board game setting, you will either have to collaborate to win or you will find that you have one winner and a whole bunch of losers. Whilst this is still a public experience, most of us can accept defeat without the negative connotation of losing face much better in this setting than an immediate judgement of our skill.

Because of the game setting, we tend not to attach the same significance to winning and losing. Yes, you may hear about your defeat or brag about your win for some time. But then there is always the re-match. If you have a potentially highly competitive spirit in your company, consider creating a collaborative game instead.

Retention of information

Learning is judged on retention of information and ultimately on the application into practice. Elearning often has been blamed for not delivering results, some live courses too. I think we can design all board games to suit specific learning outcomes (and e-learning too for that matter). Learning in a social setting enhances the chances of information sticking because we activate the contextual sense making most of use to give new information a place.

For a cybersecurity board game, we designed for an insurance organisation, the retention of information of specific potential scenarios increased which achieved the learning outcome of enabling the salespeople to talk with customers about cyber threats. The game was collaborative in nature and required for the team to work together to defeat cyber attacks. Prior to playing, the confidence of speaking about the threats of cyber with a customer was significantly lower than after playing the game and that was also with e-learning and training in the mix.

We enjoy working on all our projects but board games require regular playtesting and get us all together to make the product the best it can be. So if you want to please my team, please get in touch to help us create your board game.

Check out our upcoming board game mastermind as well!

 

Board game design mastermind

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