Gamification: the next phase!

Within the 10 years I worked in the gaming industry guiding (together with a great team of passionate people) Youdagames into the international (sub)top, I also made a lot of mistakes. But on the good side, a lot can be learned from failure. One lesson could be that you have reached your limits. Gamification as it is presented now is reaching its limits. In many posts writers are explaining that gamification is about giving rewards, points and badges to engage customers. This doesn’t come as a surprise, cause this is what large companies in this market are offering. Reason? This game ingredient is easy to standardize and there is a reasonable chance that it will work against minimal costs.

When I look at game design, the reward system is an addition to the actual game. You need it, but it is almost seen as a standard application. Sensible rewards are needed, give them at the right moment, create a good balance, test it until it works and you are done. Remember this: some games are fun enough to play without a reward system, a reward system without a game is useless!!

What makes games successful?

  1. Originality – the initial idea
  2. Game mechanics
  3. Look and feel, smoothness of the controls (very important)
  4. The story, especially the intro
  5. The reward system
  6. The overall consistency of all elements. It has to be whole.
  7. Make sure people are having fun with it (don’t forget, fun is a broad concept)

Make people board, don’t badge them instead

To bring gamification into the next phase, we need to avoid “herd behavior” we shouldn’t follow the leaders in this still young market. I have seen so many gamified websites that, before I even had time to read the first words, presented me the first “signing up” badge.

To be honest, I get annoyed by them! It is wrong! Have you ever played a game that asked you to enter your name for a badge? If so, please let me know. A game lets you board, you are attracted by how it looks and you’ll slide gently into the first level, or it made you enter by using an inviting story. That is the way to pull you in. Entering your name is a natural part of the process, you don’t even bother to think about it. Besides this, give the customer what you promise, or they will search for the exit sign as soon as they are on board.

When I visit a gamified website, the first step should be to get me on board. Create an experience that triggers me to explore the site. I would never give people a badge for signing up. Give them more features, or something useful of that nature instead. For a badge you need to accomplish something meaningful, signing up isn’t much of an accomplishment. Treat it as such and keep your customers happy. Instead, make signing up as easy as possible that’s worth the effort for sure.

Create an experience to remember

Boarding is a crucial first step. No boarding means no conversion, which makes everything else useless. Ask yourself -once in a while- why you start playing a certain game, what makes you play that game? How did it trigger you? In the Appstore boarding already starts with the icon. It has to stand out! After you start the game, you need to feel intrigued. This can be accomplished in so many ways, which can be appealing to even as many target groups. Be aware of your audience, present what they want and expect. While boarding we don’t want any obstacle to occur. This process has to be fluent, easy on the mind and obvious. A new player should gently slide into the game. Many websites offer an opposite approach. Sometimes impossible barriers are (probably unconsciously) created. Game thinking can optimize any site. A higher conversion will be the obvious result. People board to take a journey. In this case give them an experience they won’t forget. Make sure that a moment of joy, or accomplishment can be shared with friends. Create an experience that is connected to your product, or create a complete different one that attracts the audience you want (Nike+). People like to: explore, be social, achieve goals, gain status, get rewarded, and everybody likes to have fun. A good experience should include several of these elements.

Functional look & feel

How something looks, feels, and reacts to your actions is essential. When the first iPhone almost got introduced in the Netherlands, I spoke to a friend who bought it in the USA. He proudly showed it to me. He said: “try it!” and handed me the phone. I remembered very well how impressed I was by the smoothness, the scrolling through the pages and how fast it worked. Everything in it was logical, easy to master and fun to use. I asked him: “why did you buy it already, couldn’t you wait?” He answered: “somebody showed it to me and the damn thing got me with scrolling.” The damn thing got him with scrolling. Just let those words run through your mind. The decision was made due to an user interface which had one small element in it that sold the piece to my friend. He was hooked in a split second! This little anecdote illustrates the importance of something I like to call: “functional look & feel.”

Games have lots of functional elements in them. Some are highly sophisticated. You only have to look at them to understand what to do. What makes those elements even more interesting is the way they come to live when you interact with them. A good designer/animator makes sure it will be an interesting, but functional encounter. On websites this is a neglected area. Try to think out of the box. Why not use a different way of navigating? If you keep using the same standard stuff, you probably get the same standard audience. Dare to stand out, it just might surprise you!
To summarize, use game thinking to:

  1. Create a working boarding mechanism. First show what you got, make people enjoy their first visit.
  2. Build an experience to remember.
  3. Create a functional look & feel that people truly enjoy. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box!

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  1. I’m really reading your posts with interest. I can feel true experience behind. I’m developing a new platform for employees including some sort of gamification. Your experience and support might be solicited in the near future. All the best for 2013.

    • Horst Streck

      Thanks Philippe, support means a lot to me. Keeps me going :) All the best for 2013 to you as well.

  2. A short, sharp read that contains some excellent commentary. I’m signed up to read more!

  3. Thanks for the great article. I’m brand new in the gaming industry and this is packed full of information that I have been seeking. I have invented a fun, challenging, educational game and am searching for a developer and gaming company to produce it. I have the idea’s, just not the knowledge or experience on building a game for use in the different devices and the internet.

    You answered my questions about badges, rewards and lots more. Again, thank you.

    Have a very prosperous 2013.

    • Horst Streck

      Much obliged. Makes me very happy to be of assistance to you. I am representing two capable companies that can build the game. If you wish to explore that possibility, please contact me:

  4. I agree! Relate to your(any) player when applying gamification and relate to what you wish you player to experience

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