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Does gamification improve engagement?

We are often asked if gamification improves engagement and to be honest the answer is not as straight forward as yes or no. It depends on a number of factors. Engagement has to be defined in the first place, what does it mean for your organisation. Engagement in some cases means course completions, in others implementation or an indication of motivation and in others interaction or a combination of all of these. And in Google search, it typically means the stage before marriage ;-).

Top tip, therefore: define engagement and make it measurable, that way you can measure if gamification improves it or not.

How do you know if gamification improves anything?

With the lack of a definition of engagement or at the very best a really wide concept open to interpretation, the question should really be how do you know if gamification works or not.

In order for you to measure improvement you first need to know the base point or starting point. What is current engagement like, what do you base that measurement on (which by the way will also help you with the definition).

Once you know the before gamification picture, then you can measure the after the implementation measure of gamification. I am a strong believer in KPI’s for everything throughout an implementation process. We also see across the board that what gets measured has a higher likelihood to get done as well.

Discuss with your gamification consultant what you want to see improvement and the measures you are basing this on. That will allow them to design for improvement of the things that matter to you.

Deciding on what matters in engagement

What I often see in the gamification of learning, is the request that they want to measure engagement in terms of course completions or time spent doing ‘stuff’ in a learning portal. The question this always raises for me is whether that is really of value to the end-user or whether this merely justifies the existence of a learning team.

If your learner gets what they want from even just one module and as a result, are able to implement what they needed for their job, then that should be plenty good enough. But most companies don’t measure this part at all.

Deciding on what matters is a question of values and understanding who it matters to. What you value as a manager may well be totally different from your employees. If your project is about employee engagement then the very nature of the title already says who matters most. Asking them and finding out how they perceive the current status and what would make it better is always a great starting point.

 

Deadlines and performance

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Podcast 9: Why a challenge overcame my radio silence

Podcast 9: Where to find inspiration for gamification?

If you have been a regular listener of our podcast then you know we have been a bit radio silent…

In this episode I give you the honest truth of why it happened and how taking part in a challenge like this helped me get started again

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Where is gamification in HR useful and visible?

We work a lot with HR teams in organisations to gamify the services their employees use. However, a lot of HR people are still wondering where is gamification in HR useful and visible. With this, they typically are looking for validation on one side and how it will look on the other side.

Where do we see gamification in HR?

I have from my early days of speaking in front of HR audiences at conferences maintained that gamification can work in all the meaningful areas of the employee lifecycle with a company and even beyond. For me, that translates into the following processes:

  • Employer branding
  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Training
  • Performance management
  • Employee well-being
  • Career planning
  • Levelling up (promotion, increased accountability or responsibility even without titles)
  • Alumni communities

For each of these processes, there are multiple interaction points which can tell the employee whether the organisation cares and values them or not. I believe it is at these interaction points that companies can make a big difference and gamification can amplify this or enable this. It is one way amongst many, so do explore your options and pick those that are fitting to your company culture.

If you are just starting out on a gamification journey for your organisation, then tackle one of the above processes before embarking on all company-wide processes in one go. If you are in doubt whether your culture suits gamification, then go even smaller and start with a pilot project for one team or one area of the business, where you find a good cross section of personalities and people that would be willing to champion the ideas down the line when the pilot was a success.

What does it look like?

The look and feel of gamification can be applied in the tone and colour of your existing brand. If your brand is loud and daring, then your gamification approach may follow suit, if however, your brand is professional and low-key, it can be designed to look like that also. If designed well it should tell potential employees clearly whether they would fit in or not.

In terms of looks, we have seen companies creating game-like environments or replicas of their existing offices with regular tasks hidden inside them. We have also seen approaches that are much more like LinkedIn with subtle hints of status such as you are in the top 1% of users, progress bars, star ratings, likes/dislikes, emojis, etc.

How crazy you can go with the look and feel, really in honesty depends on your budget and your intentions. Anything that requires more bespoke graphics will cost a lot more than an out of the box game element already built in most gamification platforms. Some which are easy enough to replicate inside your existing systems and made to look and feel the same.

Either way, my advice would be to keep it consistent with your brand values. It can be as subtle as LinkedIn or as obvious as a Duolingo (language learning app with gamification core in its design). No matter what it needs to be congruent with all the other media you are putting out about your company and also in line what people will experience on a day to day basis inside your organisation.

 

How to decide if gamification may solve your problem?

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What we can learn from 2019 BAFTA winning game?

Every year the British Academy for Film and Television Arts also celebrates the best of games. I always find it interesting to dig into the titles that were nominated and find out a bit more about what makes them shortlisted and eventually win.

The best game winner in 2019 is the Playstation game God of War.

Trailer and images courtesy of  IGDB presskit

Personally, I am not a big fan of games where I have to go around and kill things or smash up stuff. But the action-adventure game God of War has added a bit more of a compelling storyline and emotional journey into the mix which adds to the experience.

In the game, Kratos the son of Zeus and God of War loses his wife and her last wish was to have her ashes spread across a realm far beyond… Kratos at the same time becomes the single father to Atreus his son, who has a lot to learn about being a God and a whole range of skills such as managing emotions, leading from the heart and fighting wisely.

The game graphics and open world are amazing and the acting is life-like and believable, which makes it more interesting to the player. Off course the game also requires you to fight several battles with your Levithian axe and as you play you unlock further powers that are useful to you in the game.

What can we learn from it for serious games and gamification?

First of all that your main lead character can evolve from a simple fighter to a more complex emotional being. I think in a lot of workplace designs we still see very one-dimensional interactions or action/trigger/reward sequences. Whilst those sequences are the core design, it doesn’t mean you should eliminate the added human dimension of emotion through storytelling and character development.

The big life event of the death of the wife and mother creates a relatable loss, which most of us have or will experience in some shape or form. In work, there are significant events too that unite people in emotion, whether it is a big win or a big loss. I think British politics and peoples reactions to Brexit show us that. So the loss or win doesn’t even have to live inside an organisation, but the responses and emotions do. How can you build that into your game design to make it better and more life like?

Another thing we can learn from this game is that iterative design works. The character evolves over time, in its first version the lead was much more one dimensional and the gameplay more focused on battles. If we see that as our core design, the next iterations make it evolve into something more engaging by adding more dimensions such as a companion (the son) and the emotional journey they are on. Recognisable situations and how to respond to them from fatherhood are again an iteration worth having.

Check out the full list of Bafta winners and nominees below:

Best Game

  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
  • Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  • Celeste
  • God of War
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

 British Game

  • 11-11: Memories Retold
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Res Dead Redemption 2
  • The Room: Old Sins
  • Overcooked 2
  • Two Point Hospital

Artistic Achievement

  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Gris
  • God of War
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

Audio Achievement

  • Battlefield 5
  • Detroit Become Human
  • God of War
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Tetris Effect

Debut Game

  • Beat Saber
  • Cultist Simulator
  • Donut County
  • Florence
  • Gris
  • Yoku’s Island Express

Evolving Game

  • Destiny 2: Forsaken
  • Elite Dangerous: Beyond
  • Fortnite
  • Overwatch
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Family Game

  • LEGO Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles
  • Nintendo Labo
  • Overcooked 2
  • Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pickachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!
  • Super Mario Party
  • Yoku’s Island Express

Game Beyond Entertainment

  • 11-11: Memories Retold
  • Celeste
  • Florence
  • Life is Strange
  • My Child Lebensborn
  • Nintendo Labo

Game Design

  • Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  • Celeste
  • God of War
  • Into the Breach
  • Minit
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

Game Innovation

  • Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
  • Celeste
  • Cultist Simulator
  • Moss
  • Nintendo Labo
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

Mobile Game

  • Alto’s Odyssey
  • Brawl Stars
  • Donut County
  • Florence
  • Reigns: Game of Thrones
  • The Room: Old Sins

Multiplayer

  • A Way Out
  • Battlefield 5
  • Overcooked 2
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Super Mario Party
  • Super Smash Bros.

Music

  • Celeste
  • Far Cry 5
  • Florence
  • God of War
  • Gris
  • Tetris Effect

Narrative

  • Florence
  • Frostpunk
  • God of War
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Return of the Obra Dinn

Original Property

  • Dead Cells
  • Florence
  • Into the Breach
  • Moss
  • Return of the Obra Dinn
  • Subnautica

Performer

  • Christopher Judge as Kratos in God of War
  • Danielle Bisutti as Freya in God of War
  • Jeremy Davies as The Stranger in God of War
  • Sunny Suljic as Atreus in God of War
  • Melissanthi Mahut as Kassandra of Sparta in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
  • Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2

EE Mobile Game of the Year (Public Vote)

  • Brawl Stars
  • Clash Royale
  • Fortnite
  • Old School Runescape
  • Pokemon Go
  • Roblox

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Is gamification good or bad?

Is gamification good or bad is a question we occasionally get asked by clients. It typically comes when rumours have been going around about all the bad things that can happen when people are asked to do things against their will. The thing is gamification can be both good and bad like all innovations it has an upside and a downside.

The downside

The downside of gamification can lead to the perception of being manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do. The ethical debate has been going here for some time. Gamification involves finding out about the motivations of end-users and tapping into those with nudges for the better. Anything that can be used for the better can also be used for worse. Being mindful that this is potentially there, is important and at each point, sense checking that you are on a for better track and not worse.

If you are unsure of the difference, here is an example. We all know we ought to exercise, the exercise application on your phone has an in-built reminder set to your chosen frequency. The reminder nudges are there because the designer knew that at some point you will be tempted to forget about exercising. This I would consider a nudge for the better. A nudge for the worst is often of an addictive nature, encouraging you to keep watching the next series, to keep scrolling down the endless feed, etc. Always ask yourself, who is this serving me (the company) or the end-user.

win or lose www.gamificationnation.com

Another downside is that gamification often introduces competition. The very nature of competition implies that there are winners and losers. Losers often get left out and may feel devalued or upset that they didn’t win. This can cause an immediate disconnect or negative feeling towards the company, brand or product. For some, it can also cause a bigger determination to do better next time or to win at all costs.

The win/lose equation is something each gamification designer will need to work with and design around. Having a path for both winners and losers can be the solution. Just designing for one however will by this very virtue leave out the other and cause a divide.

The upside

Gamification, when done well, has many upsides, from the achievement of goals thanks to a nudge based journey, to increased retention of learning content to give just two examples. In both cases, the design should match the motivation of the end-user and encourage what they want more of. The more aligned the encouragement with the motivation of the end-user the better the upside and potential success rate of gamification.

Collaboration can be encouraged with gamification by introducing common goals and team rewards for example. In this case, in order to win everyone has to play a part. It works well in a setting where you may depend on others to deliver whether it is a supplier relationship or simply department or team relationships inside an organisation.

Productivity and profitability can be improved with gamification and typically the two are closely linked. What is also linked in this equation that engaged employees as in people showing up motivated to do their best days work will assist in increasing productivity. Gamification has multiple ways where it can assist in this equation from simple feedback loops at the end of meetings, to nudge towards the highest priority work for example.

Gamification can be both good and bad, at the very minimum your designer should be able to advise on what potential downfalls there are with the design. User testing should also help in giving you feedback in the perception people have about your gamification efforts. I would say don’t let it stop you from using it, but go ahead with your eyes wide open.

If you are looking for a designer to help you design for good, we are happy to be of assistance, so give us a call.

 

How to choose between a game or gamification?

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