The new wave of Gamification

Introduction

In this blog post I will discuss gamification in the enterprise business by giving an overview of the topic and highlighting how gamified solutions can improve the user experience dramatically when integrated with the design phase of an application. I will also discuss the challenges and opportunities of new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality and how design ideas for those new technologies will lead to a new wave of gamification.

What is Gamification

Gamification is the use of game design techniques & mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Gamification strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviours in connection with non-game applications. (Source: Mario Herger’s Udemy Course)

Game ideas that have been widely used to gamify applications include badges, points, leaderboards, experience levels and compulsion loops. The following paragraphs illustrate how these ideas were used in different applications.

Badges already have been used by Microsoft to increase player’s engagement when they launched the new X-Box Live dashboard on the X-Box 360 game console years ago. The new dashboard allowed users to unlock “achievements” (basically the same as badges) by playing games on the console. Foursquare took advantage of the badges idea to build an entire app based on checking into places with the smartphone and earning badges for doing that. The app became quite popular and different businesses started offering discounts or rewards to the users who checked in at a certain venue.

A points based system has been successfully used by Swisscom Community which is an example of how Swisscom has used gamification ideas to improve the help and support section of the company’s website. Users can earn points by answering other people’s questions which increases the engagement with the platform and creates a community based around Swisscom products and services. The platform also features a leaderboard where people can see how they compare to other users, therefore motivating the more competitive users to try to rank higher.

The concept of leveling up has been at the core of the gamified approach of the new UI of LinkedIn. The gamified elements consist in a revamped interface where the user can see the completion level of their profile as well as a list of tasks to do to increase the level. LinkedIn also allows users to vote for other users’ skills, therefore motivating people to improve each other’s statistics. Creating a sense of urgency and providing immediate feedback also creates a compulsion loop that makes users come back to the platform. Compulsion loops can be described as “a habitual, designed chain of activities that will be repeated to gain a neurochemical reward: a feeling of pleasure and/or a relief from pain.” (Source: The Compulsion Loop Explained)

I personally started using LinkedIn more after the update and noticed how I cared about updating my profile regularly with what was going on in my professional life. Tasks were teaching me about features of LinkedIn I didn’t know about and my contacts recommendations were pushing me to update my skills and keep the whole profile up to date. The whole UI design definitely felt inspired by modern role playing videogames with the difference that the profile data was related to myself rather than a virtual character.

 

linkedIn

An example of the LinkedIn dashboard (Adapted from https://goo.gl/U9PwO0)

 

Gamification for the enterprise

There is a difference between designing a game and designing a gamified application. Gamification doesn’t transform your application into a game but it makes it feel like a game. The goal of gamification is to make your product more fun and engaging, to provide a better experience and to motivate users to behave in a specific way. When possible, it’s better to integrate gamification elements during the design process of an application rather than adding it later as a way to improve the product. As a company it’s important to understand when and if gamification makes sense depending on the type of users and the type of application you’re dealing with.

In the enterprise business gamification can be a powerful tool to improve user experience (Badgeville helped many other companies increasing users engagement through gamification), engage employees (for example SAP gamification service) and motivate certain behaviors (see the example of Nissan Leaf). When dealing with either customers or employees it’s important to keep in mind the general categories where people tend to fall into when interacting with gamified applications.

It’s good to know that most people fall into the Socializers category in the Bartle’s taxonomy of player types, meaning that the collaborative aspects of your application will be the ones resonating with most users.

 

Taxonomy of players based on Bartle

Taxonomy of players based on Bartle (Source: https://goo.gl/bwi0it)

 

Gamified applications can be a powerful tool for training new employees especially with millennials that already are used to such mechanics and are joining the workforce. When dealing with customers, gamification can help foster the feeling of being part of a community and improve the overall experience of how they engage with products and brand. Gamification can bring great value to an enterprise when integrated either with internal applications as well as customer products and because of this it’s been one of the hot topics in the IT industry for the last few years.

Gamification: What’s Next

What’s next for the gamification industry? As discussed many game design ideas have been successfully borrowed from games: badges, points, experience levels etc. What else can we borrow and for what purpose?

If we look at what’s coming next on the tech landscape, we can expect a wider adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) which both allow new ways to interact in 3D space and hence open up a lot of possibilities for gamification.

 

leap-motion

Magic Leap demo (Source: https://goo.gl/0B3QTB)

 

Some ideas for AR application can involve the concept of “ghosts” seen in games, where the player’s previous actions are shown on screen as some sort of holographic ghost. This can be used to visualize the path followed by a colleague in the past together with the actions they took at some particular location. Projecting information on walls or on the ground is also something videogames have done extensively and AR applications can definitely take a hint on how to display text and imagery directly on the user’s surroundings to give all sorts of contextual feedback. Information can also be displayed on body parts like one’s arm or hand to display interactive interfaces directly on the skin.

I believe that AR and VR will require new ways of visualizing and interacting with data and can therefore leverage what videogames have done in the last decades. What is going to be interesting for gamification designers in the next few years is to figure out how to integrate game design ideas that improve AR and VR experiences in new and unique ways and I believe that this will start a new wave of gamification.