Gamification for Fun and Profit! What, you may be asking, is this new-fangled "gamification"? Before we ask that, however, we must first define the term "game". A simple definition of a game is: "A stimulating, rule bound activity." Note that I do not mention winning - games do not necessarily have winners. Take for a simple example playing pretend with your friends in preschool. A game, yes, but without winners - although still enjoyable and stimulating. It's as simple as that. And so, what is gamification? Another simple definition - "The use of game design elements in non-game contexts to drive user interaction." Alright, great. Now while I could write an entire essay on games in general (if you want me to, just ask), I'm instead going to write out something less academic and more nitty-gritty. Principles we can use, essentially. So, without further ado: Economy Build an economy into your design. Economics, in some way or another, is one of the major motivating factors of human existence. We live on trade. History in the IB (this school program I did) had a framework for understanding events - SPERM. Stands for Social, Political, Economic, Religious, and Military. The social, political, and economic parts are all in some way or another economies. In this context, social economies are those where reputation is traded (think Reddit, or hell, even BHW), political economies are those where power is traded (look at your government), and financial economies are those where money is traded (gee, I can't think of an example for that...) The power of economy is movement. Users interacting means economy movement, which is always a good thing. Social Acceptance People have a need for social acceptance, to be in a group. People will always need collaboration and social interaction. Competition, too. Us humans are social animals. So fill that need. See, games are usually vehicles to aid in social interaction. We need that sense of camaraderie, because we base quite a lot of our identity upon how we connect to others, and our relationships. So create a system where people can gel together. Equality / Balance The golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you You ever hear of that thing called the French Revolution? Well equality was the little guy spurring them on. We all have a need for fair play, and if we sense that we have been in some way treated unfairly, we will rebel. So ensure that your design favors no-one. Ensure that it is favourable in every way. There is an important balance in game design - between the rolled dice of chance, and the slick actions of skill. If one is too heavy, the game fails. If chance plays too high a role, then users lose their sense of control. If skill plays too high a role, then users will perceive the playing ground as unlevel. Whatever you do, do not let this happen. Your game needs balance. Status Top of the food chain Remember up above, when I was talking about economies, and I briefly touched on social economies? This is part of that. People like to feel superior, respected, and important. Hence the cardinal sin of pride, and hence the creation of social economies - where the currency is respect and reputation. I mean, hell, why do you think I'm writing this? It's because it's an ego-boost. Plus I help the community. Win-win! OK, no-one read that? Fantastic. Moving on, games provide an avenue for players to gain status and reputation. Now, your game can include hierarchies - formal or informal. An informal hierarchy would be like Reddit's karma system, or BHW's rating system. Simple enough, yeah? So create systems where users can compare themselves to other players and feel superior. Create systems where they can progress in some way or another. Simplicity The human mind has only so great an attention span Good games are simple games. Example - Candy Crush. Enough said. When you're designing your game, make it simple and easy to learn. If the game is too complex, players will not be able to learn the rules. And hence they'll quit. There are some complex games that come to mind - Dungeons & Dragons, anyone? - but the problem is that it is highly unlikely that they will become widespread. There are a couple different ways to do this - tips, tutorials, a 'help' system, and designing the game to be learnt. You should be able to come up with any other ways to do this. The ideal game, in this context, is easy to learn, and reveals new elements gradually (only when needed). This is to reduce cognitive load. So design your game to be simple. Reduce cognitive load where possible. Make sure that it appeals to the masses, to the lowest common denominator. Rewards Training rats to press levers Encourage your users to act in certain ways. How? With rewards. You want to ensure that they keep coming back, and keep doing certain actions that you would prefer. In-game currency, items, and so on. Now, you have to be careful with this principle. Here's why: Dangers of extrinsic motivation Balance Rewards are the definition of extrinsic motivation. And the problem with this? It's finicky. It requires careful calibration to get just right. And the introduction of new elements could cause your carefully calibrated elegant system to collapse. But if you get it right? Jackpot. So, some issues to watch out for: Rewards are too small for work done - i.e. game is too hard Rewards are too large for work done - i.e. game is too easy Player becomes so interested in rewards that they lose sight of rest of game Players may think that rewards are merely to exploit players, and hence leave One small tip - make your rewards semi-random. Why? So that they're commensurate to the work put in, but also tickles that little gambling area in your brain. Chance gives the brain hope. Possession Because we like to own stuff, dammit Not only are we social animals, but we're highly possessive ones, too. You can call this greed or materialism or whatever you want. But no matter what, we want to possess stuff - and not necessarily physical stuff, too! You know those friends (or maybe it's you!) who go overseas every year? It's because they want to possess stuff - they want to possess experiences. So give the ability for people to possess. Physical and incorporeal things. Items, points, badges, achievements, experiences. These are all tools you can use in your design. In many ways, possession is at the root of the other principles. The need to possess drives the economy, it is the reason users seek rewards, it drives our need for status. Design into your game a means for fulfilling the human need for possession. ConclusionGamification is a complex field of study. If you're interested in it, I highly recommend you read further. This is merely a taster of what it can do. Because games are ultimately "stimulating, rule-bound activities" (as we discussed in the introduction), inject that into your marketing and product design when you are creating them. A quick summary (or TL;DR, for the lazy sods out there): Economy - We live in and function in economies. Social Acceptance - We find pleasure in the company of others. Equality - We seek fairness and equality. Status - We like to feel important and admired. Simplicity - We enjoy games which are easier to learn. Rewards - We will act in certain ways to gain rewards. Possession - We like to own things.