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This presentation is to illustrate some of the enormous advantages of implementing playfulness within your apps, and of thinking of the fun element in the user experience that you are sending out to the market - you might have heard of the term gamification, the buzz word of 2011 - we are going to examine what is gamification, and why very often gamified products are not actually playful, and what we can do to make gamification more sustainable and more powerful, with the ultimate goal of course of selling your apps.
The concept of gamification since 2009 has had an amazing success, although the real success didn’t kick in than after the success of Foursquare - in fact, gamification is much much more than what we read in marketing reports or trend watcher websites and it is but one aspect of a much bigger phenomenon - Will Wright, the developer of the Sims and Spores, talks of Gambrian Explosion, like the Cambrian explosion gave birth to many forms of life 500 millions years ago, now this explosion of games will bring out unexpected forms of collaboration, social life and creativity. Gamification is but a small part of it. We need to think LONG TERM.
For the first time in history, the first generation who grew up with videogames - more or less “our” age - is getting to the positions of power that used to be of the baby boomer, and for the first time people who grew up with video games will be making important decisions about society, policies, education, and so on. This is not the kind of audience that one has in mind when talking about games, but this is the reality
Much so for younger generations, who will automatically expect some playfulness or at least a friendly interface
This process is already quite visible: one of my favorite examples, maybe because I am a recovering Farmville addict, is Taskville, an interactive social game in which the core game element is to complete tasks in the workplace. When you report the completion of a task, a building grows in your team’s city - one hour tasks produce houses, bigger tasks produce skyscrapers, collaborative tasks produce restaurants, parks and so on. If you submit a task at the same time with other colleagues, you can even get a pyramid. So the in-game dynamics stimulate motivation for the real-life tasks, you are more aware of what the others in your team are doing, and play really improves work and work relations.
Participatory chinatown is one of the most brilliant ideas in social policy: Boston’s chinatown was rapidly degrading, mostly because of the lack of dialogue between different parties, the inhabitants and those with the money? Community members have to complete quests and have to walk a mile in the other party’s shoes, for instance recent immigrants play as police officers, and they have to meet in in-game meetings and the results of these meetings feed into the Chinatown “master planning” process.
Re-mission is actually an older game, from 2006, but it is still very actual - you play this nanobot named Roxy, who has to go around shooting cancer cells with chemo weapons - the game is conceived to convince children of the importance of chemo and to explain how chemo works in their bodies. All these examples show how it is possible to transfer the very high engagement and commitment of a game experience to things that people don’t usually like, like working, community meetings, and chemotherapy - but you probably are wondering: we have to learn about gamification, but…
In fact we have two distinct ways of intending gamification: one is the “trend” that has emerged in 2009, characterized by badges and rewards, and the “big picture” that we were talking about, of which the “badge” kind of gamification is just “One” expression, leaving space to infinite alternatives.
This is the “official” definition of gamification, by Gabe Zichermann, who in 2010 wrote an extremely successful book - game based marketing, that explains how the more successful marketing strategies are based on game-like dynamics that provide some kind of reward and punishment systems
Similar to Taskville, but while taskville was made on purpose to bring added value to one specific work environment and its core value is community connection and real time evaluation of the performance , this game is a thin layer of ready-made adventures set in a vaguely random fantasy world, adventures that are each related to one household task in a way that feels frankly a bit stretched because it is imposed - for instance personally I have not much sympathy for bad fantasy
Core values are the check in, social comparison and competition, showoffish-ness - from statistics, Foursquare heavy users tend to buy more than other costumers, but it is still debated if that is because of the value the foursquare experience adds to the brands or because of the brands themselves
Mint.com wants to make their costumers financially fit” transports the dynamics of a health/fitness app to financial health, it sets achievable goals and gives points so they have tasks such as save money every month, see how much you spent etc and you get a percentage of fitness, similarly you have progress bars for paying off debts, saving for a trip to Hawaii etc core value: feedback about your financial matters assistance in managing money, financial planning, budget planning
A mobile app that for me exemplifies the “badge” kind of “gamification” - with booyah society, you accumulate virtual merit badges for real life accomplishments recent clone also EpicWin Tracks day to day activities the way x box 360 achievements and Playstation 3 trophies do, and when you do something like going to the gym or eating vegetables you automatically are given points and badges - the revenues were not that great - these examples of gamification indeed put game mechanics on real world activities, but they don’t do much more - this reflects a mechanicistic view of what a game is
Schell’s vision, althought very evocative, of a future world in which you will be given points for brushing your teeth and eating the right kind of cereal, expresses a lmited interpretation of what a game is, because the only thing it considers is game mechanics- jesse schell, game design: a book of lenses, one of the first to talk about gamification, says: DICE talk 2010 For him, as for gabe zichermann, game mechanics are more about measurement and rewards, rather than developing strategies, understanding patterns, reaching mastery, expressing creativity, so here we have possibly some very different opinions of what a game is-
Marketeers exploit basic human instincts, According to the magazine new scientist, there are three basic instincts in human beings, and also in the smarter animals:
and, guess what, play
animals play to learn skills, to train skills, to create or validate social relationships, wolves, cat with lizard, or just to have fun, ever saw a documentary about elephants how they play with water? monkeys can actually laugh, which releases endorphines, makes you feel better - and this play instinct is the one that gamification wants to address - but do they actually manage to do that?
How much fun is this? Often application of game mechanics forget about this, and they provide some very superficial fictional value system that is not sustained by stronger motivations, and that often becomes an obstacle to the user rather than an entertainment - because the core value of the user for instance here in stackOverflow is to get information, not enjoy the sight of what Amy Jo Kim calls “a reputation system on steroids”
What gamification systems provide is then the old behaviorist model of carrot and stick, prize and punishment
It is amazing how many companies grew up almost overnight in the last year or so, and it will be interesting to see how many of those are still going to be here in two years. What professional gamifiers provide is ready made systems to add badges and points to every aspect of life, from brushing teeth to having grandchildren (remember, everything that is measurable can be made into a game)
TAYLORISM A very old method, that intuitively doesn’t have a lot to do with the idea of fun --- TAYLOR INTRODUCED BONUSES AND AWARDS IN THE REFORMED FACTORY (1890s) when Taylor created the first method for scientific management, he saw that to improve productivity one had to address the wish of the individual to better oneself, to ACHIEVE more, so he created a system of rewards, cash rewards like bonuses but also special prizes (something that we can still see nowdays, with the bottle of wine we get from central management for christmas, something that saves them a lot of money that they should otherwise give if they had to raise our salaries, but I am rambling now) Is this fun? Hardly.
The same system was adopted and improved on the other side of the curtain: during the proletarian revolution, Lenin thought: how can we motivate workers to work more, without actually having to pay them? So he invented the concept of “socialist competition” refining the old taylorist model. And here is where the reward system really kicked in, because he, and those who followed him, understood that money and tangible rewards are not the only thing that people want.
So, what happened: different factories or working teams were artificially set against each other by the management, which usually started by making the teams play football matches against each other, to establish a nice competitive mode - this mode then would be transferred to the factory activities, so that you would have on a leaderboard the achievements of the other team, and you would be encouraged to beat them and show that you are better.
Order of the Red Banner of Labour For exceptional achievements, you could even be awarded with some medals or badges, like the order of the red banner of labor - in fact this system was a bit more engaging than the cash rewards system because the individuals were personally involved at an emotional level, they felt a commitment to the cause. Actually later socialist competition was renamed socialist emulation, to dispel the last echoes of capitalism, and sometimes this competition was encouraged also at other levels, to improve the cultural level of the workers or to reward creativity in the workplace, like adobing a factory with palm trees etc. Is this fun? The football part maybe.
CARDS Going back to the Western world, from the 50ies onwards we see fidelity cards, loyalty programs, frequent flyer miles, and other systems to create a personal involvement with the products of a brand, NOT the brand, mind you, the concept of brand relationship hadn’t been invented yet, and the only emotion involved here is usually greed or the collectionist spirit
PRINCIPLE This is what Gabe Zichermann calls the sugar principle, to convey messages people otherwise wouldn’t want to hear and hide them under something appealing : like Mary Poppins says: Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
Still, this behaviorist perspective doesn’t seem to have much in common with games and play - is this fun? Not for the mouse, for sure the cheese also doesn’t seem to enjoy itself much
Fancy dress volleyball team - they play volleyball and role playing games at the same time - they have a strong community and they like to make fun of each other and laugh
There are different kind of games and different kinds of funs, but if we want to boil down to the basics
A game by definition is composed by rules and goals and/or make believe, a fictional situation or characters - often these two kinds of games are in two different fields, games that are focused on abstract systems and don’t leave much space for make believe, and others that are very open and in which the rules can be bent, two extremes of the spectrum we have structured activities with specific rules (games) and unstructured and spontaneous activity (play and playfulness) something that used not to have a lot of place in our society, where even leisure time has to be spent “wisely”
FOOTBALL In some games the goals are more important than the rules
CHESS In others the rules are extremely strict, and most of the fun lies in the difficulty of finding a strategy to win within such constraints
in these kinds of games make believe doesn’t have a lot of space, and usually the level of make believe is limited to the agreement between the players to play and that kicking a ball for two hours is not a senseless activity and that it’s not crazy that who wins will be honored and who loses will be shamed
Make believe is on the other side of the spectrum, animals make believe in a sense, children make believe, adults too when they become engrossed in a TV series but that is not really play
Fiction is made of characters and stories and interactions and surprises -- it is a different kind of immersion than the games we saw before
Sebastian Deterding: compares gamified systems to the noisy toys uncles often give children for christmas, those plastic toys with shiny red buttons that children push mainly to see their mothers annoyed, and after one day of torture for everyone around they throw the toy in a corner never to pick it up again - deterding call those toys expendables, instead these kinds of toys are “possibility engines” they open space to create something more, they are tools to creativity and that is fun
So, again, what is fun?
there was a book from several years ago entitle Theory of fun– the thesis of that book is that fun arises as a collateral effect of learning and immersion through the process of recognizing patterns – which actions happen and why – and solving problems
the classic Csicksentmihalyi flow channel a concept that is interiorized by all good game designers probably you are also familiar with it – the moment of enjoyment happens in the “zone” where the challenges are not too high (frustrating) but neither too low (boring)
Absorption, problem solving, recognizing problems and solving them The flow: Zen like quality, emptiness, rush of pleasure, forgetting oneself and the ever-talking mind and being fully in the moment
Something that is funny, that makes you laugh, smile, ROFL, it is an image a concept a sentence an action a behavior, but that you recognize and that somehow distorts your preconceived ideas - unlike the flow, it doesn’t need absorption or immersion
Appealing to the best in them and with the freedom of addressing a vast range of emotions, instead of just one or two in the whole array
Community Kiva a system of loans or macro loans each profile is not just a profile, is a story of struggle and initiative in very exotic places - some users collect profiles of people they loaned money to like play cards
Fold It is a very useful game that appeals to methodic minds (mine is not one of them unfortunately): an experimental video game about protein prediction: usually a computer would try all the possibilities to see in how many ways proteins are encoded into DNA, but it takes a lot of time and computers don’t really understand what is the BEST solution. Fold it transforms these proteins into 3D patterns, and one gets points if the proteins are well folded or not - each time you play this game you are helping world class scientific research.
NIke+ active game go to places Whether you're seeing how long it takes to climb up the Empire State Building in NYC or run across the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, each goal you achieve will advance you toward another challenging one. As you move through goals and complete brand new cities, you'll be moving more often, covering more distance and reaching new heights. When you connect your compatible device to your Mac or PC, iTunes automatically sends your workout data to nikeplusactive.com . There you'll be able to track your daily and weekly steps and NikeFuel earned. This number is then converted into your progress through a variety of energizing goals. All of your activity is part of a motivational game that lets you experience a dozen global cities.
Already since 2010 some talk of “badge fatigue” - a research on foursquare users highlighted that people who stick to foursquare for a long time do so because of the social experience, sometimes the shopping experience, but not the badges - the gaming element works for making people start playing, but fails at keeping users interested in the long run, as the less successful products similar to foursquare, like gowalla (other check in app) get glue (social network for entertainment), yelp(reviews of restaurants, places) miso (social network for tv fans) foursquare badges seem like tamagochi, something that was cool for a while but that eventually will disappear leaving no trace
from Dan Pink
If you pay your kid or any kid to take out the trash you can be guaranteed that they will never do it for free again
this is another approach to trash – another form of intrinsic motivation can be that you know the good you are doing to the planet when you recycle, but that is not in the realm of fun – what we are looking at here is the different form of motivation that come from FUN
WAYs in which you can gamify your apps or products, three ways in which you can use game and play to make your content or software memorable:
very simple examples low budget, just to show that it doesn’t take McDonald to add game aesthetics:
urbanspoon finds for you restaurants in your area, but to start the search instead of pressing a Search button you have to shake it – very simple, down to earth, still, it puts a different twist on the action of looking for a restaurant
adding game aesthetics to bring a feeling of playfulness without actually having a games is something that web developers (the best ones) have been doing forever – this is a recent website, the guide to the app galaxy by google, instead of pages, you have to launch this little space ship that will stop in different places that are each one stage of building your first app. Very simple, still, it s game-like
While game aesthetics is something that can be added, game mechanics have to be embedded to be meaningful
campaign for Volkswagen golf bluemotion, they wanted to answer the question how many miles will a car drive with just one tank of fuel? So they turned one of the main road to Norway the E6 into a giant roulette, by dividing it into 80000 segments with the help of google maps, and people bet on where would the car stop, more than 50000 people.
game mechanics is not just passive data, carrot and stick systems, game mechanics depend on many other different elements, they are not just a "add on" that can be thrown in regardless of the theme - each game mechanic (and there are so many more than just leaderboards and reviews) needs to be related to the core values of the product you want to gamify LOTTERY In Sweden – there are other game mechanics that you can use, but let’s stick with gambling – The Speed Camera Lottery reduced the average speed of traffic on a busy Stockholm road by 21.6% – equivalent to 6.8km/h. The campaign sparked debate around how fun could change behaviour on the roads for the better, both in Sweden and around the globe – generating amazing PR for Volkswagen. And Volkswagen’s share of the eco car market in Sweden grew by 84%. (source: bilsweden.se) We had increased the Fun Theory’smomentum, rewarded our loyal fans by realizing an idea directly from the global Fun Theory community, and continued to reinforce the visionary thinking behind BlueMotion Technologies.
to name a few, scaffolding, the gradual increase of difficulty, to keep the player in the famous zone
jujcyness of feedback (Jesper Juul)
advantages of the full game experience: immersion, lowering of threshold of belief, taking sides, more to do for the player/user - cons: more expensive
BEYONDGAMIFICATIONare your apps REALLY playful?
Amy Jo Kim“Every designer will think like a game designer”
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Thank you for your attention!V@playfulpandas.com @PlayfulPanda1