Too much of an earn more time game mechanic

As a gamification designer, I play games regularly to find out what works and could potentially transfer to gamification. Occasionally I find a game I keep playing for a bit longer than essential research. I am playing a game called Homescapes for a number of months now. It is nice easy fun when watching television or listening to a podcast. By playing casual games, you earn credit to help Austin the main character, to redecorate his parent’s house.

To earn more time you had to complete levels whilst mother was knitting a scarf, as you progressed at different points in the scarf you also unlocked additional unlimited play time, over and above the 5 lives you normally start with. In regular play, when you are out of lives, you have to wait for them to refresh and you keep your life when you complete a level.

The initial scarf knitting exercise in the game earned you unlimited play time for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours and finally 3 hours, which only appeared at the weekend. I assume because of the success of this mechanic people played the game more often at the weekend. Recently the game makers moved the weekend time earning mechanic into weekdays and now when you hit an unlimited time slot, you may actually have to stop playing, because work or meetings beckon or it is simply too late in the day to start them.

A few weeks ago they added more opportunities to play for longer, one by logging in 7 days in a row, which has had me close the application more than anything and even more free time can be earned by another narrative game with leaderboards. At this stage, it is no longer fun to earn all the free time, when most of the time you have to refrain from playing, because you have other things to do.

I often find myself thinking, I just want to play my five lives in my break and do no more. I don’t want unlimited play time when it is not convenient for me and I hate wasting the free time when I earn it at the same time, hence I don’t play it as often when I earn free time.

For the last two days, I had to refrain from playing because I needed to work and it made me reflect that my nice enjoyable pleasure had been eroded by the game company’s ways of getting me back into their game and play longer. In effect, the total opposite happened, I just don’t play when I have free time about to open up.

From a gamification design perspective, we often see the initial enthusiasm of people with game mechanics then wanting to use them for everything everywhere. When in reality you just need to find the meaningful touchpoints where such things add to the experience.

In the above game example, I would keep the login streak, rewarding those that log in every day and then rotate the other games at weekends when people can actually play more freely. But then maybe their data scientists see other patterns and people like me are potentially not the target audience they are after.



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What are you doing towards global goals?

The week of the 22nd to the 29th of September is Global Goals Week. In case you are not sure what this is about, check out the 17 goals world leaders agreed upon in 2015 to make the world better by 2030.  Hence my question to all of you what are you doing towards global goals?

Gamification Nation supports global goal 5

For me, the choice is relatively easy, I set up this business to bring the feminine voice into the world of gamification hence a strong alignment to goal 5 of gender equality. As a woman, I still to this day have some men making fun of me being in business, dismissing my ideas but taking those of a male colleague as gospel (even if they were mine, to begin with), men boycotting or undermining women in our industry, pay and opportunities are still unbalanced. It is why I support the work of women in games and girls who code amongst others because they aim to help create a platform where women and girls can feel empowered too. #womeningames #girlswhocode #globalgoal5

When it came to gamification design specifically, I felt the early boys’ clubs pretty much dismissed the notion that there are differences in gameplay between men and women, especially prevalent in the world of work. It caused great consternation when I pointed those out at a conference in 2015, to the point where some leaders in the industry made a clear point of ridiculing my thoughts and dismissing them. What was most interesting is that men from cultures where women do not have the same right and standards found this easier to accept, but men from more egalitarian countries really struggled with what I had said.

I think 3 years later we still have a long way to go, but a lot of issues are being raised openly, which creates the opportunity to change them. I may have taken a back seat for a while to let the backlash die down a bit, but intend to bring it back on the agenda, that if we want truly inclusive design then including all groups in an organisation needs to be part of it. #globalgoal5

Gamification Nation supports global goal 10

As a result of the talk in 2015 and more global travel, I also feel very strongly about goal 10 of reducing inequalities. Whether it is gender, age, culture and ability, they all have an impact. I believe there is enough for all of us in terms of work, wealth, food, etc but we haven’t found ways of distributing it equally. Yes, I may be an idealist and have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing many different cultures from a very safe perspective. I also believe each culture holds the key to its own empowerment and enabling that is a good thing.  #globalgoal10

When I speak about inclusion by design, it is this goal of reducing inequality that I want to address more. If you think about gamification design in the workplace, how much is full inclusion for you, 75% or beyond that? Simple things may make a big difference around accessibility, feeling safe to play, expressing true ideas and much more. To encourage more inclusion, we need to go out and talk to majorities and minorities in each workplace and design for both to feel part of the bigger picture. If your workforce is mainly homogenously young with men, then the question is ‘is there something in the company culture that attracts this?’ and is this the best for your company’s performance?

We know the best performance is reached when multiple views come together and work together. Whether it is gender, age, race, ability, etc everyone has something to contribute that may expand the picture and enhance the overall result. For this reason, I am a big fan of the work of Special Effect, who make gaming accessible for people with disabilities. I have multi-colour and multi-racial friends all over the world, who all have their own stories and input to give. #specialeffect

It is also with this in mind that I decided to sponsor the Outstanding Award for encouraging Diversity and Inclusion at Gamification Europe. I suggested we should have an award of this nature and then I decided it was good to actively sponsor it. I would love to see initiatives in including age, gender, race, culture, ability be entered for this award and understand the impact gamification has had on inclusion. #gamificationeurope

So what action are you taking towards the global goals, either as a person or an organisation?

Inclusive by design

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Working together towards achieving goals

In all companies, I see working together towards achieving goals as very central to the work organisations and its people carry out. In all of my career, I seem to have been supporting those kinds of pursuits whether it was through training, change management consulting, learning design, coaching and mentoring and for most of our projects at Gamification Nation the same focus remains to help people achieve goals together.

In our work on membership communities, we have found the owners often want members to pursue their goals. We know from our experience that tracking publicly often helps people with the very objective of staying on track with their goal. Most top athletes have coaches and trainers and in business, a lot of people have mentors and coaches to do the same.

As an avid fan of tracking, I do like a variety of apps for this purpose from Runkeeper for fitness, to my Apple Watch for general everyday activities and then some self-designed spreadsheets for my business, as I am writing this I am also trialling a time tracking tool.

When communities and companies collaborate, making goal tracking a visible tool helps. It also stimulates a sense of being part of something bigger than you. In my opinion, both individuals should have goals and then team, department and company goals. Depending on your culture you may choose to share them or not.

Coaches and trainers have been goal focused for some time. In my business coaching days, I definitely had clients set goals and then look for ways to achieve them. The ways to achieve them varied depending on the individual and their abilities, interests and commitment.

A lot of membership associations over the years have asked us to help them with goal setting for their members. They see them beneficial to find out which members need support and which ones need praise for moving forward consistently. As a community, there may even be over-arching goals for all members to aim for, in the end, the inspiration behind the community will choose that objective.

To help business owners with online communities on WordPress, we have developed a goal setting plugin. It allows each member to set their own goals and track them, they then have the choice to share this with the community. It is optional to do this. If there is demand from community owners to set some push goals, we are considering it for future updates of the plugin. We are officially launching it with this blog post and you can have a look some of the functionality and buy your plugin from the page below

Goal Setting

Please let us know your feedback on the plugin and let us know how we can add functionality to it that suits your membership community. We look forward to hearing the great ideas you may have for your community.

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Do you learn better when you feel part of a community?

As a continuous learner about all sorts of different topics, I often want to deep dive on my own, but then tap into a community once I have practical questions. This morning I read a book about learning (yes all 10 chapters in one sitting, thanks to the art of speedreading) and it made the claim that people learn better when they feel a sense of belong. Hence my question, do you learn better when you feel part of a community?

It made me wonder because I personally prefer learning in private and then occasionally enter into a community to engage and ask questions. I would love to hear your perspective.

I am a member of one community around business, which I joined for the training and stuck with for the community and ongoing support of the owner. When I attend a live course I do enjoy the interaction with others and I think we learn a lot from cross-fertilisation and side-conversations.

I recently attended a design thinking workshop on the topic of artificial intelligence, which brought out some great conversations around our table and it was a fun experience. We started as complete strangers and then ended up working together very well and as a follow-up, we connected on LinkedIn. I must say though that I didn’t experience a sense of belonging, but did feel part of a community or group trying to achieve a common objective, which was enough to serve the purpose we all came for.

When it comes to adult learners, a lot of sense making happens in discussions around learning. As a lecturer for an HR masters program, I would have explained a theory and then with the class we discussed where we had seen this in real life examples or how it could apply for the companies the students worked for.

My class was a tutorial group away from the central exam and education centre, but the local enterprise board wanted to support them in their endeavours. The group worked well together and supported each other, so there was value in working together. The discussion was also enriching for me as a lecturer because more viewpoints created definitely more interesting perspectives than just the theory.

One of the students in an official exam preparation in head office had tried to engage the lecturer there into a discussion about how the theory would apply in real life and was shut down for questioning the theory. He came back with the perspective that this lecturer didn’t have enough insight into the topic or was just a really poor communicator. The person wrote the course, so I guess he had enough knowledge, but he didn’t know how to engage with his adult learners in a way that actually facilitated their learning ability.

All of my group went on to graduate with their HR masters and I would have largely attributed the success rate to them being a group they felt they belonged to and supported by. I had the impression that they had each others’ back when it came to getting through some though concepts and rough patches.

If I then look at the world of gaming, a lot of people learning and playing a particular game will also look up tutorials and join communities around the game to hear about the latest developments. The instant feedback on streaming platforms such as Twitch, where you can also pay to watch a favourite player teach or show you their tactics is an example of todays community. We may not all have to be in the same physical location but can feel part of a place where you can learn from each other.

We do a bit of work with membership communities and often the people join the membership to learn and then stay because of the community.  So what is your view, do you learn better when you feel part of a community?

Breaking the pattern as a way of adapting to new skills


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How to build a business case for gamification?

In a corporate environment, we often get asked to help influencers on how they can build a business case for gamification. A gamification project will require typically an investment that will raise a few questions as to whether this is money spent wisely or not. It is, therefore, a good practice to build a business case.


The first thing a business case should answer is why you think gamification is a good solution to help solve your business problem. The why can range from increasing engagement to decreasing staff turnover, to creating an overall better experience. Your reason why may also include age or demographic profile ideas. For each specific topic, there are a number of reasons why someone goes looking to solve it by adding game psychology and game mechanics into the mix.

Who else in your industry is doing it

The days of being a total pioneer because you are adding gamification into the mix are probably coming to an end in my opinion. But I guess I am dealing with it every day, which may make my judgement slightly clouded. In any case, there are now plenty of use cases for gamification in most work scenarios. When you are drafting up a business case, having other companies similar to yours engaging in this practice makes it less risky to venture down a similar path.

Where possible show numbers

Results numbers and impact numbers are notoriously hard to find and often spiced up by the marketing teams of vendors. Getting objective engagement and improvement numbers may mean doing some investigative research from people that have run projects internally or research institutes. More and more research is happening around gamification impact. Or by attending conferences focused on gamification in your field, you may find plenty of case studies or people willing to talk informally about the impact for their clients.

Address the key questions

Like in all projects, you would want to discuss your main objectives and targets in the business case. Then address the timeline, the scope and the budget required. If you have a project plan or at least a basic approach in mind that will help.

Build a high-level context

Having an idea of what the end result of your project could look like is useful. The high-level context, theme or storyline may well be the part that excites the business. We have definitely experienced this with our clients that the story is what received the biggest buy-in. We find images of other implementations really worthwhile, to make a concept come to life.

Know your decision makers

Like in all things in business, the better you know your decision makers and the kind of information they need, the more likely you are to be successful. Ask others in the company that have received the go-ahead for their project, how they persuaded the decision maker and what the person looked for.  It may take a little bit longer to do this but may increase the chances of securing funding a lot more.

Ask for help from your consultant

We often assist our client to generate a business case that helps them secure the funding for the project with us. We probably know the industry landscape quite well and can give you an educated view. We may also ask for a nominal fee for our know-how at the same time.

What does good gamification feel like?

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