Games engage people. They are fun to play, challenging, and very rewarding. The core reward elements and the conditions to achieve those rewards make a game interesting. For example, the scoring, storytelling, leveling-up, winning, or even losing. The application of those gaming techniques to real world systems is called “Gamification”.
In gamification, the main idea is to have people restructure what they do to make it more like a game. So, there’s the start, the objective, the challenges, culminating in the accomplishment. Many organizations have already picked this up and have implemented gamification practices to increase their productivity. Some of the practices are applied to their internal staff while others have been applied to their client-base.
Gamification is commonly applied on social media networks to increase crowd interactions. We all spend a lot of time on social media and we know it is fun to use. The reason behind that is that there are many gamification techniques applied that we don’t notice. For example: imagine doing a fetch quest in Skyrim. The player is told to collect a few items and come back. Upon successfully completing the tasks, the player unlocks an achievement. It could be an in-game reward or even a nice badge or trophy to display on their account. Likewise, some social networks encourage users to complete specific tasks. It could a be check-in at a location, filling out a form, or following other users in the network. Once completed, the user will be given a reward, just as in a video game.
Here are examples of some of the most commonly applied techniques:
- Achievements – Rewarding users with virtual and real world privileges and badges.
- Character Development – Upgrading the user’s avatar as he proceeds.
- Scoring – Accruing points by completing tasks.
- Victory Points – Setting a victory condition achieved through scoring a certain amount of points.
- Quests – Assigning the users tasks to complete. Quests are often used to make users explore different features of a network they may not otherwise encounter.
- Territory Control/Ownership – Virtually becoming the owner of some place or object.
- Leaderboards – Ranking of users for how they perform in different tasks, against other users on the network.
Here are Tech Companies that use Gamification:
A very well-known user of gamification in social media is Foursquare. While Foursquare’s primary purpose is as a discovery and guidance app, it’s become even more popular for its check-in game. Foursquare uses a ‘Territory Control/Ownership’ game mechanism called “Mayorship”. It is a competition among users to acquire a real-world location in their names by checking-in to that place more than anyone else within 30 days. In order to do so, Foursquare also features a scoring mechanism along with a ‘Victory Points’ goal to gain ownership and ‘Leaderboards’. In addition to Mayorship, there are other unlockable achievements such as badges and perks. To unlock them, users need to perform specific tasks like ‘Quests.’ While some of the reward badges are only for virtual prestige, Foursquare perks also extend to real world rewards like discounts and goods.
Snapchat is a rising star, known for its auto-deleting photo and video sharing. However, gamification is the reason why users can’t stop using Snapchat daily. One such application is Streaks. Streaks are a scoring mechanism in Snapchat that exists among users, they count the number of consecutive days two users have snapped each other without a 24-hour gap.
While LinkedIn sounds like a more conservative and corporate platform, it’s engaging its user base very effectively through gamification. The main mechanism used is ‘Character Development’, where the user sees their professional self as the character being developed. All the listed activities and qualifications are what the users have achieved in real-life, however, LinkedIn encourages users to develop their profiles by having a profile completeness score and allowing users to rate each other on their skills. Users with stronger profiles gain priority in searches when people are looking to hire on LinkedIn.
Quora is a community driven question & answer network that applies gamification techniques. What makes Quora run clean and smooth is their ‘Scoring’ system called “credit”. Users must earn credit to stay active in the community. To ask a question, a user must spend some of the credit he has earned. A user who quickly needs an answer can promote his question by spending more credit. Users can earn credits by answering questions and receiving upvotes for their answers. This is a great game mechanism they have used to keep users active and to minimize spam.
AirBnB is another well-known name from the Silicon Valley. A travel and holiday planning services network that applies a sharing economy model to hosts and guests. There are many game mechanisms applied in promoting hosts. ‘Scoring’ is one of the techniques; by receiving positive feedback from clients, a host accrues points and ratings. Once a host reaches the ‘Victory Points’ condition, their account is leveled-up to “Super-host”. Additionally, both users and hosts can receive badges as achievements for performing different quests and for receiving positive feedback.
These examples are just a few, Gamification is a massively growing billion-dollar industry today. It is used increasingly in more and more sectors from education, to sales, and even healthcare. Going forward we can only expect to see more companies applying it, so it’s time we all understood it and learned how to practice it in our own work.