Some might see gamification as a cheap trick. An inserting of game-like elements into an otherwise mundane piece of software. This is all in the hope of eliciting a marginally more engaged reaction from the begrudging user. From a hastily cobbled together leader-board on the wall of the sales department of a telecoms company, to the ringing of a gong when a massive sale goes through.
Okay so gamification can be hopelessly misunderstood and poorly executed. Why should you care? You should care because successful companies from all sorts of industries already know the truth about gamification. Effective gamification can help grow, retain, and satisfy your customer base.
Why Should This Matter To Businesses?
Understanding motivation and behavioural mechanics is important because they help users, whether they are internal employees or external end-users, to be more engaged with our products, services, or systems. By this token, all people have things that are extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. We are sometimes motivated by external rewards and goals, and other times the activity itself is motivating, and we don’t need a goal. Effective gamification design often uses both of these motivators in conversation with each other to engage users.
Gamification Is Already Everywhere
Gamification done properly probably shouldn’t be obvious. Shrewd developers understand that it is all about understanding, and leveraging, human motivation and other behavioural mechanics. It is about delivering the fun and engaging aspect of games to real-world or professional activities. Software and systems with effective elements of gamification often don’t resemble games at all. Examples of effective gamification are everywhere — once you start to look for them. Think of the addictive and turbulent world of FarmVille, or the slot-machine-esque Instagram refresh feature.
Dropbox basic accounts offer 2GB of storage space. If you refer a friend, you earn 500MB of free space. This simple inclusion increases the company’s userbase by motivating existing users to ‘cash in’ on a free offering. Online shopping applications give you an initial discount, Amazon offers free shipping for larger orders, and airlines offer frequent flyer points to make travelling in the future cheaper. Companies offer these discounts with the goal of more engaged and loyal customers. What behavioural motivation is this leveraging? The desire for a good deal, of course. After all, who doesn’t like a free lunch?
Anyone Can Understand Behavioural Mechanics And Motivation
The same element of gamification can be incorporated by different companies for positive or nefarious means. Duolingo and other language learning applications have seamlessly integrated ‘the streak’ mechanic into their app. Users will be rewarded for doing lessons on back-to-back days. Similarly, mobile games companies use streaks and unique daily challenges to keep people glued to Clash Of Clans or Subway Surfers.
Gamification is so powerful that it even exists inside games. In Valve’s superhit, Dota 2, players’ skill level used to simply be associated with a number. Their ‘match-making rating’ was anywhere from 500 to 10 000, which could be displayed for the world to see on their profile. This was built upon to later include 8 ranks, each with a badge associated with them. similar to League of Legends. So instead of earning arbitrary points, players could “rank-up”. This incentivised an already highly active player base to stay playing for longer.
Gamification Is A Must In The Competitive Modern World
Whether you’re aware of it or not, gamification is subtlety associated with so much of the technology you already use. The delivery app that offers you a discount on restaurants it already knows you like, “one day only” sales, and tracking followers on social media apps. All of these examples, ethical or not, cause people to interact with a brand more consistently, and for longer. We’re at the point where gamification is no longer an option. Companies will either learn and adapt, or get left behind by the more innovative competition.