We all like games. They are fun, social and as it turns out tremendously useful in real life. (See my previous post on that subject here. Read it? Good, then welcome back!)
How did it start?
So lately, the world of gaming has started to spill out from the realm of hardcore gamers to, well... the realm of everyone else; those we call 'casual gamers'. In a similar fashion, the concept of 'instant rewards' that are found in games has also begun spilling over it's boundaries and into the 'real world', becoming an incentive concept for actual life tasks. This movement is known as gamification. But where does this all come from?
Back in the day a company called Blizzard create a game called Diablo. It became huge and the reason for this was a very simple mechanic. You run around the game killing things and getting rewards for it. The more things that you killed, the more rewards you got and the more 'badass' the thing you killed, the better the class of reward you got. So gamers that played Diablo got addicted to the concept of running around a magical world, killing things and completing quests just to see what reward you could get next. Pretty simple really; dangle a carrot, perform a task, win the carrot.
As the science of Pavlov's experiments demonstrates, any creature can be conditioned to repeat set tasks to deliver set reward, including humans. Thus game mechanics in real life, outside of games, relies on providing people groups such as consumers, employees and managers instant rewards for tasks accomplished on a scale of economics that allots you more each time the more you do - creating a meritocracy with instant rewards as opposed to deferred rewards and doing it all in a fun, competitive and driven manner.
Confused? And so you should be! Bring on the infographic.
What is changing?
The introduction of game mechanics and the wide appeal it has to a large following of adults is introducing radical changes in the way we approach company tasks and the way in which employee rewards are being considered for the next generation of adults. Instead of spending 10 years in a company for a meagre share offering as a reward for all your hard work, companies are introducing fast turnaround rewards for its employees and its customers that allow them to reap proportional rewards quickly - for results achieved or goods and services bought. Genius. Because as we know, man is not a patient species nor does it plan for its future. The here and now is the way to go when incentivising a person to get anything done.
Therefore, the trick is to also do this publicly. Not only do you incentivise people for fast returns but you also introduce a competitive edge to the performance by comparing your results with your co-workers or other consumers creating the drive to be better than the next guy. Now we know humans like being better than the next guy - so this is a no brainer. Nothing like a bit of friendly public humiliation to get those slackers to perform better.
So lets take an example of how this is working for one of our clients (who will remain unnamed for a variety of reasons).
The company, a traditional business, was having difficulty motivating its' managers to use Facebook. Nothing worked, not even training.
We created a tool that allowed the parent company to create an aggregated list of the best performing managers, based on posts made, images uploaded and comments made to each of their corporate Facebook pages. That list was circulated among the managers, publicly showcasing the top performers and the poor performers.
How it worked out:
With the added incentive of wanting to 'beat' their fellow managers in this ficticous ladder of competition, the stage was set for the low performing managers to find ways to improve their ranking so they were rewarded better and looked better in the eyes of their peers.
The role of agencies in driving game-to-ROI value
Agencies play a vital role in bringing great user experiences and strategies to companies. The trick is to ensure that the 'gamified' strategy delivers a real return to the customer. But how do you approach this?
Discover the business value
Never rush into a social strategy. Stop and think - what is it that the client needs? Where will he get value? There are both soft values and hard values to consider and your strategy for a gamified social experience should include both. Engage the viewer with fun and deliver a result that has real value to that company.
Find the lever
In every successful game franchise in history there is a lever, a hook, that keeps people coming back to it. Discover what that lever is for your client's audience. Naturally, you can't start your execution until you know exactly what this is.
Don't forget the fun factor
Games are fun. So should your gamified strategy be. Engage the user with visual splendour, a competitive factor and a measurable fast return.
Let's take a look at a prototype idea for a gamified concept developed by a research group at MiT.
The team was attempting to harness the appeal of massive multiplayer gaming to obtain ideas about solving the energy problem. If we run out of fuel what will we do? To answer this they created an open-ended world where players played as corporations and has access to all the natural resources that currently exist on the planet in some form. Then they challenged the players to create viable company models within the fictive economy to see what the thousands of people playing the game would come up with regarding commercially viable strategies for alternative energy sources. So not far off a larger version of Sim City but with a micro managed economy under the players control.
This game utilised modern gaming graphics and engines together with the collective thinking power of thousands of gamers to see if a viable method of having a replenishable energy could be commercially utilised in a controlled economic environment. This exercise at MiT did not yield the solution to our energy crisis. However, it certainly is one of the best examples of advanced gaming technology and mass collective problem solving that I have found to date.
Do you know of any good gamified examples? Post below in the comments and let us know!
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