Outstanding gamification awards at Gamification Europe

At the Gamification Europe event projects, individuals and companies were awarded for their efforts over the past 12 months (and probably longer). As a winner of the Outstanding Gamification Agency Award in 2017, I was also privileged to join the other winners, sponsors and more industry experts to judge the current crop of entries.

I know Dr Michael Wu spent hours trying to come up with an ideal format for this year’s competition and as he says it is a continuous improvement process to make the awards better over time. The criticism about the 2017 awards was that the popularity contest dominated voting, so the aim was to improve on this. As a first measure, the previous winners were taken out of the equation and levelled up into judging positions. Also each participant this year could only enter into one category and not just hedge their bets in all of them.

From the organisers perspective, they want to use the awards as a way to drive more community sharing as well as rewarding excellence. Hence the popularity contest element stayed and judges reviewed all of the entries to help draft up a shortlist of finalists. Judges also had a booster option to select one entry that didn’t make it into the finals and bring it forward. Then some additional game mechanics such as golden tickets and quantum leaps were added to give participants a chance to improve their position after the panel of judges had gone through a second review and detailed scoring on creativity, design and impact.

Below you will find the winners of 2018 with their award entry YouTube information. Congratulations to all and I hope it spurs your success on to the next level.

Outstanding Gamification for Inclusion and Diversity: Culture Shock

Outstanding Gamification Project in Audience Engagement: Siemens revolutionises selection process with Game-Based Assessments

Outstanding Gamification Project in Learning: Think Codex Customer Service Training Simulation

Outstanding Gamification Research: escapED

Outstanding Gamification Rookie: GamUp

Outstanding Gamification Software: Gamehill – Gamified Learning platform

If you also want to peruse the other finalists, then the best place to find them is the finalist listings.

My reflections as a judge

It took a lot of effort to review all the entries and without knowing exactly I would hazard a guess of over 20 hours of work was attached to give everyone a fair review. On top of a busy schedule no mean feat, but then all of us were in the same boat and I think it is also educational to see what people put forward. I want to make some observations in general, which I hope will help future participants.

In the original round before shortlisting, we saw a few I would say opportunistic entries where either no project had been completed yet or they just found themselves simply greater and better than everyone else. I am glad all fellow judges agreed not to put these forward. I was a bit bemused by these entries though. I personally didn’t understand why you would enter for an award when you had not completed or no evidence to back up your claims.

I liked the judge booster option to help in shortlisting one entry per judge that you felt was deserving and didn’t make the original grade based on grouped scoring of the full panel.

The one thing that varied significantly over all categories, was how the impact was recorded and demonstrated. In business, we are always asked about return on investment, impact, benefits and preferably as quantifiable as possible. In the entries, we had soft measures ranging from anecdotal feedback to self-measuring confidence, to more quantity-driven measures around hits, clicks and interactions and completions, which in reality are not an ideal reflection of impact. In a very limited few of the entries, we had a seriously meaningful impact on things like net promoter score, bottom line numbers, knowledge retention and confidence levels straight after and then 3 and 6 and 12 months later and significant sample sizes.

I think as an industry, the impact is what is important to our end-customer, so taking the latter measures as impact indicators will also help improve how we are seen as professionals.

What was difficult to judge sometimes is the actual solution design and visuals. For a lot of entries they were simply missing.

What I absolutely didn’t agree with personally is that the quantum leap used by a participant could completely overturn the results in a category after the judges had cast their final round votes. First of all, not all participants understood the concept of the quantum leap and due to not receiving emails and not reading blog posts due to travel or access issues not everyone used it and secondly I felt it made a joke of my time spent judging. Why should a participant have the last word, when we are trying to reward ‘outstanding’ performance.

For me, the quantum leap option is an example of bad design. The placement of this, in the judging process is something to be revisited if used at all. If you use it, then use at the start. Most entries will know they have a weaker area and can put this forward from the start. The golden ticket, which wasn’t active due to time limitations, would have had the same outcome of giving those that understood how it worked unfair advantage over others because they could receive coaching and then re-submit their entry. Again at the beginning, if everyone knows how then yes this makes sense if used at the end, it makes a joke of the ‘outstanding’, because effectively you are giving the participants the rights and encouraging them to game the system.

I personally feel if we are looking to reward excellence then we should just have a panel of experts giving marks with clearcut criteria and keep it simple. I encouraged a number of clients to enter, but they didn’t because of the complexity of the process and not wanting to enter something they didn’t understand. I am not convinced encouraging community and participants participation throughout a judging process is helpful. I feel a community forum may be more useful if curated well and the tone kept encouraging for all and not just a show-off forum. Maybe a stack overflow style model of sorts.

I think it is great that there are awards and that everyone is looking to keep improving how they are run. So I am hopeful that the next iteration will once again be an improvement on the current version because I do believe this year was an improvement on the popularity-driven contest of the previous year.

Anyway, well done again to the winners and for everyone else, there is always next time.

 

 

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Reflections on Gamification Europe and the state of play in the industry

Over the last few days, I spoke and attended Gamification Europe in Amsterdam. In comparison to last year, the event was no longer two streams fighting for attention, this time we could all stick together and listen to everyone. I personally found the quality a little higher this year also, but maybe that is because I could see everything I wanted to see.

Day 1

The event kicked off with Marigo Raftopoulos reporting back on revisiting the people she originally included in her PhD research a few years later and how their enthusiasm had decreased significantly. Some of them felt gamification had failed, others felt too much hype had been sold as in overpromise and underdeliver, others again didn’t see gamification as the whole or only solutions and further professionalism had been lacking. I really liked the constructive feedback, which can only make us better in the long run.

For me, the top takeaways from her talk were the suggested actions for us as industry professionals to step up our game and really become more realistic in what we put out there, less hype more case study and research. To explain with honesty what gamification can and can’t achieve. Where possible to adopt an end-to-end solution for clients through partnerships or others, so that it is easier for clients to buy.

With Marigo as a good friend, we often talk about the gamification industry and how it is going generally. We both had a sense that whilst the interest, in general, is waning and for some people, it really hasn’t delivered, passing the hype cycle need not be a bad thing. I think it gives us scope to sell real solutions and to have mature conversations about what it gamification can and can’t do. Stepping it up a level as professionals, I think has been long overdue and some of us adopted this approach from the start and others are still learning to find their feet.

I was a speaker in the next block together with Zac Fitz-Walter and Melinda Jacobs. We had a fun time backstage getting ready for our talks, trying on some of the stage props. Zac kicked off our trio of speeches with prototyping and without seeling his full presentation nor coordinating presentations, it really was a great starter of the topic. Great advice to start with paper prototypes and then graduate to digital ones if you need a digital solution. My playtesting talk had similar advice on start with paper and then I took a deep dive into how to go about it, what you need for a solid playtest and what things to test for.

You can find the slides for my session here:

 

Melinda Jacobs then followed on with great wisdom about user experience and how to apply it well in gamification. We saw some examples of it done well and then tips to get it right.

After lunch on day 1, we started with a panel discussion hosted by Rob Alvarez with Juliette Denny, Will Stuart-Jones and Mun Choong Lam, who are all platform providers and their view on the industry in Europe. What I took away from it is that the industry is still doing well, the wording remains an issue but when providing value it really is about solving business problems and speaking the customers language.

Karen Sikkema followed with a talk about bringing physical games and narrative together for a game they did around history for the cities of Utrecht and Amsterdam. She also shared their learning model, but we didn’t really receive an insight into the detail of it. I understood white papers will follow. Manuel Pimenta then explaine the approach they took to create a thriving community for Worten and how co-creation was a large part of the engagement strategy.

Later in the afternoon Willem-Jan Rengers shared how templating makes it easier for teachers and people in organisation to replicate designs rather than creating from scratch each and every time. Bernardo Letayf from BlueRabbit shared his journey from teacher and player to gamification industry professional and his quest for continuous improvement. Then Michiel Van Eunen MC for the coference also had a chance to share his wisdom around experience design and how having come from a theatrical background helps them break through some boundaries when they create serious games and playful solutions.

Day one left us with many talking points and great interactive discussions at breaks. It was fabulous to see how although we work in different companies, they general approaches are quite similar, the journeys of individuals and their projects is always fun to hear and inspires us to reflect on how to do things.

The day finished with the Awards dinner and I will dedicate a blog on Friday to this purpose and my experience as a judge.

Day 2

Day 2 started off with Steve Bocska from PugPharm and his vast experience in creating blockbuster video games and how he evolved with building a gamification platform. He took us through his dislike that we probably all share about points, badges and leaderboard and how this achieves mainly short term engagement even if they can have a place in a game, they are not what drives long term engagement.

Having worked on proposals with Steve and his team, I know what he has achieved and I really like their platform, it has  much more focus on quests, collectables and fun mini-games to build longer term more sustainable engagement. His engagement score formula is also a useful to take a further look at when the whitepaper comes out. I just wish he had shown a bit more about the work the platform can do maybe with a deep dive into a project. Either way it was great to finally meet Steve in person after all our time meeting on Google Hangouts.

Juliette Denny from Growth engineering gave us burst of positive energy around learning related gamification and how they effectively use gamification for their clients. The impressive examples and comparisons between what they do for L’Oreal and others and the differences in rolling it out for good business and cultural reasons I found truly refreshing. She also showed how the traditional mechanics of points, badges and leaderboard do work for some of their clients when it fits the profile.

Because I know both people and their paltforms relatively well it was fun to see the different approaches and how they can work for different purposes.

Next up was Andrzej Marczewski, who strayed from his usual inspirational and evangelising best practise approach to much more corporate practical on how to work within limitations and constraints such as time and money, which is reality for all of us. He took us through a case study and what was included even within the limitations of the project. Bart Hufen took us to the lunch break with his personal story and continuous improvement loop to keep making your work better.

The afternoon started with a panel on research and what I took away from it is that the world of research and the world of business should be more connected. I think true value exists in the crossover and how research can be applied for improvement of our solutions. In one of the discussions over breaks we also felt that if a useful repository of relevant research would be accessible to all of us in corporate that would probably help too. If someone has the time and willingness, I know a few us interested.

Samantha Clarke then spoke about mystery boxes and to instill curiosity in higher education and learning. The use of props and narratives were key to engagement. She was followed Pau Yanez Vilanova with his case study of PlayVisit where they used beaconing technology and gamification to encourage more exploration in tourism.

The final session included talks from Will Stuart-Jones, Mun Choong Lam and Dr Michael Wu. Judging from the Twitter feed they were again great hits and full of knowledge.

After the coffee break, I teamed up with Marigo and Melinda to do our debrief over some Jenever slurping. Our cup was well and truly full to the brim and we were fading fast, so fresh air and a bit of a boost was on our menu.

Reflections

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the two days and felt the quality of conversations and presentations was higher than the previous year. I enjoyed the networking conversation where I could connect with old friends and colleagues and many new ones. As a travelling speaker and business owner, some of the people in this community are now extended family and friends, which I personally find enriching on many levels.

One conversation saddened me a bit in one way, a lady who was looking to create gamification for a large network of women had approached many of the male speakers and when she asked how they saw differences in gamification for women and men, most of the time she received the answer that there wasn’t any or it was minimal. It saddens me that this thinking is still around. Gentlemen please speak to your lady friends, partners and colleagues and listen to hear how they perceive games, competition and business reality. You will be surprised to hear it is more than subtle or non-existent. For me it means that my message has not been heard and my work of sharing research and findings from reality is not sticking. So there is more work to be done.

From a pure business perspective, I felt the fact that we were willing to look at wasn’t working and how to remedy it. Sharing the good the bad and the ugly is a sign of an industry maturing and wondering what develops next. I thought it was seriously positive to see different perspectives and some great examples. Let’s hope we can all take our lessons and build out what we have. I am sure over the coming days, when we all let it sink in, there will be interesting thoughts and maybe projects or collaborations to build on from this event.

Thank you to the organisers for pulling the event together and thank you to all the people I spoke to at various breaks, it is these seamingly small things that really make a difference in what we experience. For me it was lovely to meet old friends, solidify some relationship and make new ones.

 

 

 

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Keeping a gamification design fair for your intended audience

Balancing a gamification design is no easy feat at the best of times. Keeping your end-user in mind at every given time is however essential. I actually recommend having the persona description somewhere in plain sight when you are working on the design. It will subliminally remind you of what they can and can’t do.

We are working on a gamification design aimed at a student audience for future quite technical recruitment into engineering roles. The student actually doesn’t have any technical knowledge, yet we do want to test their ability and appetite for it. It led to an interesting discussion with the client as to what we should be able to expect from someone without in-depth role knowledge.

If we forgot about the end-user, we would have come up with something amazing for the people fully skilled in the highly technical role, but a bit unfair to someone without full training. Sometimes the temptation to build something more advanced is there. It is where user testing also plays an important role. Considering it before you start prototyping means you can limit pre-working.

From a learning or recruitment gamification design perspective, knowing what you expect people to have in terms of knowledge, ability and skills before they engage with the design is part and parcel of user-research. Having a clear profile on their motivation is the first step, but assumed pre-qualification will also add the fairness factor for your design.

Making it too easy will get boring quickly, but having an early win does work to build confidence. If in doubt of the level, I would say choose slightly harder than it needs to be. My thinking here is that games such as Flappy Bird were so hard people just kept trying to beat it. Having insight into the behaviour profiles of your target audience will obviously help in setting this challenge.

When you are dealing with scientists and problem-solving professions, making a gamification design too easy, is a sure way to turn them away. They would prefer the harder puzzle or the more complex gameplay to stay engaged. For more social butterflies, easy fun is much more important and they will give up if it is too hard.

The ultimate fairness test is to observe how a group of your intended target audience engages with your design. Seeing what they figure out quickly and what they get stuck on is really quite interesting to see and you may choose to adapt your design accordingly or not.

In any gamification design, you want your player to feel that they have a chance to win and do well. Making that process fair based on their skills, ability and knowledge goes without saying but can easily be overlooked. Excitement and expectations can get the better of both the designer and the client, so ensuring you have checkpoints in place to tap back into who this is for, is important.

Inclusion by ability

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Is super league triathlon gamification of top sport?

This weekend I was fascinated with triathlon super league racing. Triathlon is already a tough sport, even without additional challenges. If you have ever tried the trio of swimming, cycling and running, you know transitions are challenging and can turn your legs into jelly. Traditionally each leg is relatively long and placing well in each event and coming out of transitions cleanly is key as well as pacing your effort across the disciplines to reach the destination.

Each race format allows you to gain some kind of “mastery”. Racers don’t only have to aim to finish high, they also have to race fast enough to not be eliminated. In each race, they can use a booster in the form of a shortened course. You can only use it once in any one race.

To me, this looked like adding gamification to top sports. It is as if the challenge of triathlon wasn’t already hard and competitive enough in its own right. I wonder if it was the competitive spirit of racers that drove them to think up this new format or whether it was rather a way of making it more interesting to follow. Triathlons, just like marathons and other endurance events, tend to be less popular to watch. I have to say I kept watching this format to see how it plays out, but also out of fascination with human athletic achievement.

Here are the levels of mastery aka the various races over a two-day period:

Master of versatility

Throwing the traditional swim-bike-run sequence out the window the Triple Mix shuffles the disciplines over three stages. Tactics for survival are fierce and athletes are eliminated from the race if they fall more than 90 seconds behind. Mistakes in this format are costly and the fight to stay in the race will be the focus.

STAGE 1 – 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 2KM Run (10-minute break), 

STAGE 2 – 2KM Run- 5KM Bike- 300M Swim (10-minute break),

STAGE 3 – 5KM Bike- 300M Swim- 2KM Run

Master of tenacity

The Eliminator tests the resilience, stamina and velocity of the athletes in a pressure-cooker format where field position proves key over timing. Athletes must finish high enough to not be eliminated whilst managing their effort against fatigue. Three stages of traditional swim-bike-run whereby athletes need to hold their ground and watch their backs in each stage to be eventually crowned as the most tenacious and tough athlete on the Super League Circuit.

STAGE 1 – 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 2KM Run (10-minute break)

STAGE 2 – (Top 15 finishers from Stage 1) 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 2KM Run (10-minute break)

STAGE 3 – (Top 10 finishers from Stage 2) 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 2KM Run

Master of persistence

The Equalizer starts with an individual time trial in one of the three disciplines, racers only find out on the day. The times taken here will set the scene and provide gaps for Stage 2. Athletes who post good individual times in Stage 1 will be fighting hard to stay away from a charging main field over the SWIM-BIKE-RUN-SWIM-BIKE-RUN of Stage 2. Fastpack swimmers, bikers and runners will be battling to come through the field while those with a time advantage give their all to stay out front.

STAGE 1: Individual Time Trial

STAGE 2: Enduro Style Racing 300M Swim – 5KM Bike – 2KM Run – 300M Swim – 5KM Bike – 2KM Run
Master of tactical racing
The Sprint Enduro splits into two stages, stage one is a SPRINT swim-bike-run format to determine the TOP 5 athletes from 2 heats selected by lucky draw to automatically qualify for Stage 2. The next 2 fastest athletes from the heats will also go through to Stage 2, giving the top 12 athletes a chance to race it out in a shortened Enduro style format of Swim-Bike-Run x2. Tactics for survival are fierce because if an athlete falls more than 90 seconds behind at the timing checkpoint in any discipline then they will immediately be removed.

STAGE 1: The Sprint

1. The field will be split into 2 groups by lucky draw

2. 300M Swim – 5KM Bike – 2KM Run

3. Rest until Stage 2

STAGE 2: Enduro Style Racing

1. 12 athletes as a mass group start

2. 300M Swim – 5KM Bike – 2KM Run – 300M Swim – 5KM Bike – 2KM Run
Master of endurance
The Enduro is considered the most brutal format of all. Requiring endurance and tactics, The Enduro is a non-stop burst of swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run without any break. The added element of speed is tied into the race demands of The Enduro, with the two slowest athletes at the end of each discipline being eliminated immediately. The winner is the first athlete across the finish line upon completion of the entire race sequence.
STAGE 1 – 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 1.6KM Run- 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 1.6KM Run- 300M Swim- 5KM Bike- 1.6KM Run (non-stop)
I found it fascinating to follow and definitely questioned if this is still good for athletes. From a competition perspective, the elimination challenge definitely adds the drive and pressure to perform better. Smart tactical racing was still possible. From a competitive gamification design perspective, it gives good ideas on adding more challenge both from mixing it up and from adding in elminination as a risk. The booster will help keep more people in the game or give the leaders an advantage.

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Reflections from Gamification Summit Turkey

Gamification Summit Turkey has closed and had a theme of changing behaviour running through it.  I have great respect for conference organisers the world over because there are so many moving parts to looking after, so well done to team Gamification Turkey. What was outstanding is to have the consecutive English translation for the talks in Turkish, it made me feel very included.

It is always an honour to be invited to a conference and share your knowledge. I also enjoy learning from other people’s experiences and insights which is why I tend to stay around for the other speaker presentations. So here are my reflections on the event.

The conference started with a double act keynote of Joris Beerda and Thomas Lindemann which basically took us through the Octalysis framework and touched on a Volkswagen case study around their soon to be launched loyalty program. For me,  it would have been more interesting to hear more case study rather than the framework, but I guess giving away the details before the launch would not leave much for curiosity. It will be great to hear more about this case again after roll-out. Loyalty schemes and gamification have been old friends but stuck on status and points as Thomas pointed out, to include loot boxes is a bold move especially given the negative press they were getting.

A stand-out presentation from a client perspective was the food ordering gamification for Yemeksepeti. Okan Erol shared their journey with pitfalls and highlights that brought them to the current gamified ordering service. They had shortlisted 3 well-known gamification platforms, 2 of which they engaged at different times, but failed to deliver and resulted in the project being put on hold. In the end, they went with a bespoke solution created by people who had been watching their efforts (if I understood that correctly). This is the unspoken story of so many clients. Most platforms will have success and failure stories, but we don’t hear about them. I understand it isn’t good for business, and I am also reluctant to share those kinds of stories, but every consultancy and every platform will have them. I guess it is the client prerogative to share the true story. I loved how ‘mayorship’ plays a big role in the gamified solution and caused a lot of buzz on social media for the company.

Another stand-out presentation came from the other lady speaker in the line-up Gunet Eroglu of HMS Health. She started designing a solution because of her dyslexic son, combining brain-computer interfaces and mobile applications. What I found interesting to hear is how important emotional brain activation is to learning for dyslexic learners. I believe research is going on in this field so it will be great to hear more about this. I personally feel we haven’t explored the connection of both movement and emotion and their respective impact on learning. I think brain sciences will add value as we learn how our brains take in information.

Maarten Molenaar shared an interesting model for understanding the culture of an organisation when rolling out a change project from Leon de Caluwe and Hans Vermaak. He also made the valid point that estimating realistic timing is key in managing change expectations. He also shared how on some projects the culture in the company needs to be reflected in the design and translated into the language all can understand and buy into.

Sylvester Arnab also shared valuable findings from the work they do with Coventry University in the field of collaboration, gamification and game-based learning. I often find that when you listen to academic researchers that there is so much more they could be explaining and they have to just stick to a quick overview of something that can have a lot more depth. One of the parts he touched on was how trans-disciplinary collaboration could impact the design process for gamification and serious game design. I think that in all of our work the co-creation with clients is the most vital part of creating acceptance and ownership of a change project. At the end of the day, most gamification projects end up being some sort of change project by default.

The day had more interesting presentations and workshops, we didn’t get a chance to attend all or retain great information about everything. But the above were my takeaways. I would have like to have asked a few questions here and there, but maybe the risk of having silence may have prevented this or sticking to a tight timeline.

Thank you team Gamification Turkey for making us feel welcome, included and organising a great event. I hope it spurs on great projects in Turkey and further afield.

 

 

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