Podcast 14: What is involved in the gamification design process?

Welcome to this week’s Question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens and I’m the show hosts for a Question of Gamification.

And this week’s question is one that on occasion crops up more from our competitors if nothing else. Occasionally, also from clients, but it’s something we do always answer for clients in proposals. And that is: what is involved in our gamification design process? How does it work? What are the components? What are the deliverables? It may be one question split into a few elements. And I want to tackle that from the ideal project perspective in an ideal world where everything runs smoothly, where you have unlimited resources and unlimited timeframes, etc.

Because the reality of any given project may be different. And I’ll come back to that next week. The official steps in our process are understanding the business specifics. Now in this business specifics phase, we want to know, why do you want to gamify this project or this process? Why do you want to do this now? What else have you tried? We want to understand the reason behind it.  Then we also want to understand the success measures. How will you know that the project achieves what you wanted to do? How will you know that the project has been considered successful? Does that mean higher numbers recruited? Does that mean
higher numbers in sales? What is it that you want out of it? Are there soft measures? Is that increasing confidence, increasing retention of knowledge, deployment in reality? Whatever the success measures are, we want to unlock those in our business specific phase.

The other exercise we occasionally do, maybe not all of the time is the Moscow exercise and Moscow. It’s a city, but it’s also an acronym. And the M stands for: what must be included in the gamified process? What should the gamify process include? What could it include? And what Won’t it include? So MSCW and the o’s are the bits in between that make it Moscow: what must it have? What should it have? What could it have? And what won’t it have?

That sort of outlines the scope of a project, because not every project will need everything. Sometimes we also need as a measure of how we can get to good enough? How can we get to a project that will deliver but maybe not, you know, a project that has everything, all bells and whistles on it?  Often budget may drive this but also constraints of software that we have to work together with. That’s sometimes gamification tools, sometimes it’s actually existing software already in place. It could be existing constraints within a business.

We recently quoted for something where people were hired and needed to be on-boarded very quickly into service and it needed to be done remotely. People had no access to the internet, but they did have access to some standalone computers, and it could be envisaged to have maybe some tablets without Wi Fi access, with the games uploaded on it, so that they could still onboard and learn the processes. There is an example with a lot of constraints to it. So in those cases, the must have, the should have, could have and won’t have is absolutely essential.

The other measures in the business specifics are key performance indicators, the current processes and the current experiences people have, then the as-is process and the to-experience. Because if you want it to be vastly different, we want to map that out. It comes from good process mapping and process analysis.

Knowledge, I learned in my consulting days, are sort of to blame for this type of work. But we do want to understand, how does it currently work? Because if we’re going to make changes, are we making changes that are so far removed up, we are potentially hitting rejection, or are there maybe processes that could be improved, and we should just go with the process. And in those cases, we also need to buy-in, of the users engaging with those processes.

Finally, in the business specifics phase, we also want to understand the meaningful touch points. Now we’ll come back to meaningful touch points in the next phase for you in our user research, because what we consider meaningful, like, for example, in the recruitment process, how the invite for an interview sent out is a meaningful touchpoint and can give a potential wow-factor to the candidate where they say that organization really wowed me with how they invited me. They, you know, were super efficient, the whole process was smooth.

This sort of sums up everything that we do on when we’re looking at business specifics. This then translates into a business specifics document and project scoping documents. In terms of deliverables, what the client gets is usually a word based or PowerPoint based description of this is what’s included, that’s what’s excluded. These are the measurements. This is the process as we understand it.

For their review, we might iterate that document once or twice, if we missed out on parts. And then we agree well, that’s the way forward.

So that’s in the ideal process. Often this phase runs concurrently with the next phase, which is user research. So user research is the phase where we delve deeper into the users, like why do they use the process that we’re gamifying? What is it that they use it for? What motivates them? What de-motivates them? We want to have both sides of the motivational coin.

How do they perceive the current process?

What is in it for them? What should be measured according to them?

What do they like? What do they dislike?

And we often at that point, run design thinking workshops with the end users. This allows them to co-create what the new process and a new experience should look like and feel like.

From our perspective, in user research, we come out with a persona or a user profile. And that persona then becomes the basis for what we design and who we design for. And we often at this point, ask, do you want to be involved in a pilot test? Would you be available for prototyping, testing? Quite frankly, once you get people excited about what we’re aiming to do and explain the rationale. It’s rare that you then have people say, you know, what, not for me, just show me the end result. In a lot of cases, people, once they have given a little bit of input, they also have a sense of, I own a piece of this.

So they have a sense of all Yeah, I like it would like to see what this turns into, what this becomes etc. In a funny way, the buy-in process starts as early as this. And for me, that comes from my change management days in large consulting companies, the earlier you can get people involved, the higher the likelihood that they’ll accept the end result. But also that they feel a sense of ownership of the product, the process because they helped to co-create it. So I think in this day, and age, co-creation is big for corporate.

Why not do it for a gamified process, or a game that you want to roll out towards your employees and towards your users. Your customers, your potential customer. Customer focus panels could be very useful for this. The tools, we use are surveys, design thinking workshops, and focus groups. And then the end deliverable, as I said, is typically a persona, a profile, and then an ideal process in the view of the users.

Then, the next phase is our gamification design phase. And that really feeds off the previous two. If anything, the first two are non-negotiable for us, in order to hit the target audience. Because if we’re doing game design blindly, without those previous two phases, then any guarantee of a level of success is a lot harder, guaranteeing the level of engagement and getting it right the first time is also a lot harder. If we have to work blindly, we have done it once or twice, it has been hard. And we’ve had to iterate more at gamification design and production level, which is also a much more costly way of doing it.

Whereas if you do include the previous two phases, it’s actually more cost effective. And it’s actually typically also less iterative, in the sense of the design. So what do we do in the gamification design phase?

We choose the storyline or the theme of the design, whether that’s an in house theme around somebody or a ritual that’s effective in the organization. Or a completely made up one, it can be either. We choose a story arc because we know gamification, and good stories engage more, and people retain more information that way.

Then we map the journey that builds on the map from the first two phases, we add in the win conditions, we add in the game elements. And then we prototype. Our first prototype is always paper based or PowerPoint based in a lot of cases and will become a high-level concept, then a storyboard and the description of the flow.

I suppose, from a deliverable perspective, the three deliverables are a high-level concept, which is the first thing. That’s the first thing that goes to the client that we get feedback on. If we have approval and agreement on that, then we go into storyboard mode, where we go to that next level of granularity and detail.

And then we go into a detailed gamification design document, where we look at, you know, this is what x behavior gets, that’s the reward, they get. That’s the points they get, that’s the outcomes they get, the consequences and the feedback loops that need to be built.

Really, that becomes a very large Excel sheet most of the time, where, the developers can see, right in this piece, I need to make sure we have points for actions, the narrative, that’s the trigger for that’s the message they get on failed and that’s the message again on success,, it really does become a very detailed document.

What’s then also included in the user design, or the gamification design phase is a user test, to make sure that a user can understand it. Because in design, what sometimes happens is that, as a game designer and a team working on the game, you can see quite a mile off, or Yeah, this is how it should work. But you also, in some ways, become blind to the problems that it may cause for the end user. So something that’s obvious to us, because we work on the tools and we work on the game may be baffling to the end user.

You need to observe them looking at the screen as well, I really don’t know what to do here. So there are always some things like once you have a totally fresh pair of eyes looking at it, they say, no, that’s not the way it works. Or they figure out ways of using your tools that you never thought of. also account for that. user testers are absolutely essential to the process. And then we iterate the design until it is a fully working and a good enough version in order to launch.

Yes, you may still be doing tweaks in the background. We typically have issues logs where you basically define things based on high priority because it’s a showstopper, it will affect gameplay and navigation. Then medium level items, they are serious, but not showstoppers, and then the low level items are things that I would see because I know about them. Or let’s say somebody with a trained eye will see. We had one recently on a project where an emblem for an officer was wrong. And whilst that’s not a high priority, it will impact some of the players in the know. We obviously want to change that and get that right.

The development phase we work in sprint’s so that means that we usually breakdown the project in sprint format session. A number of objectives for each sprint, so that the developers are clear. Okay, this is what we need to achieve this week. We review at least once the end of the week.

How far did we come? What worked, what doesn’t work? And you know, this process is repeated. Then we test, we bug fix.

The issues log becomes from small to usually a few hundreds of lines long. And then we keep working towards up until go live, until finished. And yes, it’s iterative in its nature, because it is an agile process.

At the end of the development phase, you want to see a working model coming to life, whether that’s in board game situation, an actual physical board game that you receive, or in digital solution, obviously, the playable version of whatever process that we needed to gamify.

And then we typically have a support phase. Not all gamification agencies would do that. We include support and support means we analyze the behavior of the users, we look for feedback of the users and see if what we designed works?

Are they engaging with it as intended? If not, then what, what should we change?

I always advise the first six weeks, eight weeks don’t change too much, especially not in the first two. First two weeks, you probably get the most complaints and unless they are serious in nature, not it’s actually stopping people from performing the work and completing parts, we would hold off because there isn’t getting used to phase.

Just think of it.

If any of your social media platforms, changes buttons or adds new things, there is a bit of a getting used to involved. So that has to be covered.

People have to get used to it. But if it’s not a getting used to issue, then obviously it’s important to listen, and then look for Okay, is this the way it should be?

When we do analyze behavior and interactions with the actual systems, there is a monthly feedback forum and monthly reports. And then we tweak based on that data or design. If they’re big tweaks they’re are obviously additional costs, if they’re small tweaks, then often that could be just in the support fees.

So those are the five steps in our design process. So first one was business specific. Second one was user research. Third one gamification design. Fourth one, development and fifth one, support.

So I hope that that answers some of the questions, it gives you an insight in how we work, it mentions the deliverables that we’re after. I can’t be more transparent about our processes. And they will always be different for each organization. Because of our bespoke work  we cannot share other people’s deliverables for the very reason that they typically also include very, I suppose secretive information about how they work around there. That’s why there are non disclose clauses in place.

Saying that there are things that we show in our design tool kit course where we work with fictitious little dummy projects. If you’re interested in delving deeper that is something we are working out putting together.

I hope you enjoyed this session of a Question of Gamification, a very theoretical one, and next week, I’ll delve deeper into the realities of a real project. Whilst we have a fantastic process and I think that’s also what wins us awards. In some sense. We also have realities of process, I suppose shortcuts to deal with when it’s a real project.

Thank you for listening. Do give us a good review or a like when you enjoyed the show, and keep your questions coming to us. We love answering them and I hope to hear from you in the next few weeks.

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What kind of gamer are you?

https://www.gamificationnation.com/gamification-trends-for-2019/In our work in gamification we draw from the game industry for inspiration and concepts, we then apply it to business processes and business results. Most of us at some point will have clicked on a personality profiling tool or the simple pop-quizzes on social media to garner a bit of insight or have a laugh, whichever the case may be. Research organisation Newzoo, who have been studying games for years, has come out with a gamer segmentation tool.

Women account for 46% of gamers

Not that we didn’t know this already, but women can be gamers nearly as much as men. How we play may be slightly different, but according to the Newzoo research, it is more about our consumption habits rather than gender or age. Again something that I have been writing about for at least 5 years or more. I took the quiz on their site to access my profile and I came out as a cloud gamer, which quite accurately describes my gamer style these days. I may have been a different profile earlier in life.

The most female-oriented categories of gamers are the time filler, the cloud gamer and the popcorn gamer. In fact, in their research from over 30 countries, the Time Filler is the top persona for female gamers with nearly two-thirds of this population female and only 19% male. The main reason for playing games is to pass the time.

The biggest category overall and the 2nd biggest for females is the cloud gamer. The cloud gamer enjoys a good quality game experience, they will tend towards free to play or discounted games and will rarely invest in expensive tools to play with. One-fifth of all male gamers fit into this category. Newzoo also predicts that it will be a growing trend with software giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft working on platforms that will bring games which don’t require a fancy extension to play.

Ultimate gamers, love all things gaming and will spend most on gadgets and game related tools. this is very much a male-dominated persona with 65% of men in this category and the age span being between 21-35 with 19% of them between 26-30. I don’t find this very surprising because you need a bit of disposable income to buy all the technology required so being in a job is nearly essential. The interesting side fact is that most of these live in families with children, so maybe the stay at home longer generation sits here.

You can take a quiz to find out your persona and read up on further details of the research on the Newzoo website.

Here is an overview of the various gamer types according to Newzoo:

Newzoo research into gamer types and their gamer segmentation

E-sports and streaming are driving new habits

One of the findings is that e-sports and streaming channels such as Twitch and YouTube are driving new habits of just watching other people play. Now one could argue that this may not be entirely new, because sports for years have attracted live audiences and fans. I personally don’t think it is a major surprise to see this emerging for video and computer games too. I on occasion watch playthroughs of a game I haven’t mastered or I simply can’t play due to lack of the console equipment or my skills being too poor for it to reach a good level. So as a gamer type this personality is called the popcorn gamer, who would rather watch than play.

The popcorn gamer is the gamer that prefers to watch rather than play. It is here that you find the youngest group of people with slightly more men at 54%. Just under two-thirds of this category falls in the 10-35 age bracket and 17% are between 21-25. Streaming has definitely become more popular in recent years, so I am not surprised that this group is then also likely a growing group. From a strictly business perspective, in-game advertising is wasted on these.

Segmentation research is welcome

I have to say I am delighted to read more research is being done into gamer personas. I have been a big fan of the work of Andrzej Marczewski with his user types and the subsequent academic research from various institutes to validate and tweak the profile. So I am happy to also see consumer research to be added in the mix and I am considering adding it into our work for some of our sales and marketing related gamification work in specific markets.

Consumer research on the scale of Newzoo is something we couldn’t carry out ourselves, but they have the data available and when it can help our clients I feel it could be a worthwhile investment. I just wish consumer research companies had pricing small agencies can afford, in general, they are out of our league.

I think in a world with more and more choices and also more and more data available for all, segmentation will be part of the game of business for all of us. That’s why understanding your customer will become more important than ever. It will determine the channels you use to attract them to your products and services and the methods you use to interact with them. It is an ever-evolving landscape. Segmentation gives us a guide, which we then have to test for our specific audience and it helps to take the guesswork out of the equation a bit.


Gamification trends for 2019

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Podcast 13: How does a gamification project compare to a big name game?

Welcome to a Question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the show host, and also the chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation.

And today’s question is: how does a gamification or serious game project stand up in cost, benefits and impact in comparison to a big name game like a World of Warcraft, FIFA,`Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, you name it, any popular game that people are playing these days?

The first answer to this question is that it is a question of budget and resources.

Typically, the bigger name games have more budget available than most corporates are willing to pay us for a gamified process or gamification or a serious game, which is the first given. Most budgets in the corporate sector are relatively limited. And the second part is the resources available. So in gamification studios, the majority of us work in quite a lean production team, and we adopt quite a lean methodology to get to the end results. In the larger studios like Blizzard and EA who produced some of the fantastic games that we all love and would love to aspire to create someday. They work with bigger teams. They have many more stages of inputs.

We, for example, have a game designer, a graphic designer and a developer at the core of what we do.  We don’t necessarily have a story writer, a narrative writer, a level designer, several versions of graphical asset designers, several developers and in-house access to a wider skill set. So whilst it is something we’d love to aspire to, realistically, the budgets that we are given to work with don’t allow us to get us there.

Does that mean that the benefits of what we create are compromised? Well, actually, not always.  First of all the bigger studios are creating for fun and for lasting engagement and to commercially making the most out of any given game that they dream up and create. Whereas for us, the measures of success are different. Yes, it should be fun to engage in, if it is a serious game. In gamification, the purpose is always the business objective first. The benefits of a serious game and gamification is typically whether it has hit the objective that it was designed for. And the first objective is usually not, it has to be super fun.

In most cases, well, it has to attract people to join the organisation if it’s for recruitment, it has to improve sales numbers if its sales related, it has to improve skills if it’s training related. So that’s the first thing, so the objective is different. It should still in terms of fun aspects, and levels of wanting to play again be engaging enough. But some games, you will not replay over and over in a gamified setting. For example, if you’re dealing with a game for recruitment, then obviously this is not going to be repeated over and over again by the same person. The intention would be there that the person may play it for a number of times, over a short space of time, even a week, or to gain access to the highest level so that they gained interview or they gain the skills that they need to prove to deliver.

In some sense, the purpose is different. So the reusability for any one player is limited. Can it be reused for many more players? Yes, of course. That’s a given. The other thing, if, for example, and I’m thinking about recruitment games that are built for competency testing, for example, once you have the result, would you go back again, it’s different, it’s a different kind of game than a game of Fortnite, a game of FIFA or where you have levels and other types of things that you may want to create. They actually are so much harder, there’s much more to earn for so many more levels, so many more interactions and the multiplayer experience. For us, it’s back to that question: does this make sense for the purpose that we’re building?

For some learning related experience it may make sense. And that’s where simulators for quite some time have played a big part in training and for pilots, for drivers of specialists equipment, for oil rigs, etc. So in some sectors, it is worthwhile investing in something of high enough quality that can replicate reality. But that also typically means a mega investment.

So for the smaller purposes, like recruitment, like a short term intervention, even a game just to attract people to use your product, you wouldn’t necessarily need to go as far as having seven or eight or 10, or hundreds of levels. You may just be sufficient to actually have one level one simple game, and an outcome at the end of the game. It really depends what you’re after, does it stand up and look and feel as it should?

I mean, just because you’re writing or designing something for business purposes, that doesn’t mean that it should look bad. It doesn’t mean that you should compromise on a quality experience. It doesn’t mean that it should be substandard.

Recently, I was presenting a series of games that we produced for recruitment purposes. And in my view, in comparison to the game that we based the whole idea on, I think we did as good in parts and better in parts and then also worse in parts than that specific game. Pretty much because we had specific things that we wanted to test for. There was problem-solving, there was creative, resourceful thinking, there was showing the reality of life in that particular role. There were a few things that we had to incorporate, which obviously, made it more challenging in some sense to create. But also, some of the reality was grinding, in the sense that there’s repetition. For example, you will have to do maintenance on a regular basis, you will have to face up to the realities of the job, not everything is rosy. That was also something that the client wanted to convey in a game that may come across as a little bit boring.

But at the same time, a lot of games when you have to repeat levels, and especially in the casual game variety, it’s not unusual to have to do repetitive tasks over and over again, in order to reach the end of a level. Does that mean it’s less engaging? Well, we still do it. But we do it for a different purpose. We play those kinds of games for a different purpose than let’s say, a multiplayer online game where you come together at a given time to go to battle, go to war, and, you know, deploy the specific skill that you bring to the party.

In my view, it’s horses for courses, you have to always think about, okay, is this good enough to deliver for the purpose that we have? Yes. Can it be better? In most cases, probably, yes. And if it can be better done, what kind of budget do you require to make it better? Because that is the one thing that I would say most organisations don’t want to face up to. They want to buy a Ferrari on a bicycle budget. And we really do need to be realistic in what is possible? What can we do? I mean, I’m always amazed at what we can produce, even for relatively limited budgets. And, you know, that’s thanks to a great team of fantastic collaborators.

Would I love to produce the next big name game? Yeah, absolutely. I think every game designer would love to do that. Give me a budget, give me resources, give me access to the tools? And, yes, we’ll do our best to deliver.

Does it mean that a serious game or gamification should be less engaging, less fun? No, it never should. Those types of games should still be fun, they should still hit their objective, the challenges is that some of the objectives are not what we consider fun.

So getting a job is that fun? Completing a course, you know, that could be fun, because you want to learn the skill. If you’re driven by learning skills. Getting the job also can be fun if you really wanted to get that job. The hardest thing to describe is how do you describe fun?

Is it like a belly laugh fun, probably not what we will be designing for? But rather you know, a little smile a little, “Hhhmm… that was okay.” I enjoyed that. Those kinds of experiences, yes. That’s what we do design for.

I hope that answers the question, and puts certain factors into perspective, that impact gamification and game design for business reasons. Because we are not in the business of designing the next FIFA or the next World of Warcraft or the next big name game. We are in the business of delivering business results. They go with a variety of fun levels and fun experiences, and perceptions of all the things in between.

I hope that answers the question.

Do give us a rating, a like or ask us further questions. We’d love to answer them. And I hope to hear from you or meet you in real life or on any social media that we connect with. Thank you for the question and for listening or readin.

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The final sprint is often the longest

In our gamification design and development work, we loosely follow the agile methodology. In the agile way of working the agreed tasks and priorities form part of a sprint. We do our best to work in this way and work with high, medium and low priorities on our projects. Any time we reach the end of a project, we start creating issues logs and get ready for the final sprint. The final sprint is often the longest and most tedious because the big work is out of the way and now we are effectively fiddling with details.

The emotional journey

The emotional journey of any given project goes from the excitement on winning the work and enthusiasm to start. This is soon followed by the realisation of the magnitude of the task you have taken on and at various points, throughout the project, you may go from feeling good about to feeling a bit frustrated or disheartened by it. Any time you hit a major deliverable or milestone there is a bit of rejoicing and if you can take a break to celebrate that is great, in our experience, it tends to immediately roll forward into the next phase.

I really enjoy it when I start to see a design come to live via graphics and playable parts. The development phase is high on conversations back and forward with the team to make sure everyone knows what we are working towards. Questions and suggestions often come to improve the original design or development limitations arise which means re-thinking some of the designs. The key is to give clear direction and to ensure that people can keep working and progressing to hit all the subsequent deadline.

The testing phase is where quality control and bug spotting and fixing is the order of the day. My tool of choice is an issue log in excel, where each task get’s a ranking in terms of priority and the team can then indicate where in the development it sits. It can be open, on hold, in progress, ready for a next build or resolved. This spreadsheet then becomes the driver for the activity for the final sprints.

Multiple stakeholders

In my experience of dealing with large corporates, making sure that everyone is on board with the design and to also draw lines on what can still be changed at which points if key in our work. Often when we come to final deadlines, we will hear of someone higher up in the client organisation, which has not been privy to the process from the start and has some clear opinions. With experience, you learn to draw these people into reviewing earlier in the design and development. There is no clearcut way of ensuring you won’t get some surprise views later in the phases but by asking who has final sign off and say over the projects, you will hopefully get some of them on board sooner rather than later.

In gamification and game design for corporate projects, one thing that always strikes me is that we do an awful lot of explaining and educating of what it is we actually do. Often the decision makers have no idea of game design and development and in some cases, they also have no interest in games or self-admit to be against them. The latter I find challenging to deal with. There comes a point where you just have to go into production to complete a project and not consistently debate the purpose of something. The proof is often in the experiencing of the end result.

My personal preference is to work with people on the project team that at the very least understand games from the players perspective. When we have these types of people on the client team, the whole process becomes a lot smoother and they can rationally follow why certain things work a certain way. Preferably that person is also well-respected and high enough up the food chain on the client side to help the project moving.

Good project management is key

The more project we have ongoing at any one time, the more important project management becomes. I have been told numerous times that a great project manager can do any project. Now while that is true for the basics of communication and project tracking, I don’t buy it when it comes to delivering great work. When they don’t understand your type of projects, the pitfalls relating to them and the tools we are working with, you are introducing the risk of cluelessness and for the project manager to be bought and sold by developers. Multiply the trying to buy and sell you all sorts of stories a few times when you are female, unfortunately. I have learned to arm myself with the knowledge to ensure I can spot the bluff.

A great project manager can steer a team to succeed and focus on the most important tasks that will make the biggest difference. In a recent project, I had to step in to get the project to the final sprint, because communication had fallen over, deadlines were slipping and issues were being handled in a very disorganised manner. I can’t sit back when ultimately my clients are potentially on the receiving end of something that isn’t finished.

When you are outsourcing your development to external partners, which we often do because of the varying nature of the types of work we deliver, communication is key. Our development partners are rarely in the same countries as us, so project management tools are important. We have worked with tools such as Slack for everyday conversations and questions, Trello board and other Kanban style tools such as Ora and Gitscrum as well as Basecamp and Monday for project task tracking. One thing to watch for is that communication to you as the client also includes the daily questions between teams around problems they are facing and questions they have. If this is filtered by their project management then be sure that issues will arise later as a result of interpretations of what you have said and especially if they are first time teams to work with gamification or games this can give rather surprising/shocking results.

Project cadence

You know a project is going well when there is a natural rhythm of meetings, communications, deliverables happening on time and problems being tackled head-on. Every project will have moments where it is harder to envisage a positive outcome, but with a good team, communication and perseverance we often get there. Creating the regularity of specific recurring tasks and not moving them is the base of project cadence or flow. Everyone gets into a rhythm of working towards this.

The final sprint

By the time you come to the final sprint(s), project management becomes more intense to keep a team focused on the highest priority items. At this point, everyone is probably suffering some dose of project fatigue and want’s to see it over and done with. Snag or bug fixing tends to be everyone’s least favourite task. But reaching a final deliverable that everyone can be proud of is key.

From an emotional perspective, this is often the phase that is hardest to manage. Motivationally you are asking people that have been working hard already to dig a little deeper. High detail doesn’t suit everyone and that can cause frustration and interesting conversations. I personally find this the point where I have to care about what happens. I have had people walking out and going missing in action and I have had serious arguments and then we have also had really good positive outcomes, but anything is possible. It is a case of walking a bit of a tightrope of being demanding and listening to when it is driving it to the edge.

I think that a celebration after the final sprint is essential, but only when the job is completed. Let go too soon and people become unfocused, leave it too late and people don’t seem to care anymore. However, there is great satisfaction in completing the long final sprint to the developed end product.

Gamification design, game design, instructional design, it’s all easy, or?

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Podcast 12: How to get started with gamification?

Welcome to a Question of Gamification a podcast where gamification expert An Coppens answers your questions.

Hi, and welcome to this week’s a Question of Gamification. This is An Coppens your show host, and also the chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation. This week’s question is, how can you get started with gamification?

Now, for me, that’s a double question in one. For some people that means how can I get started for building a career in gamification? And on the other side is how can I get started and put gamification into practice for my organisation? So those are very frequently asked questions we come across. So to tackle the first one, how can we get started in a career in gamification? Well, the first thing I would say is to look to become an intern.

Ask organisations like my own, and see if you can, first of all, translate an existing regular game into something that can be used for businesses. That’s typically how I asked interns to apply for positions within Gamification Nation. The other thing to do is to start reading up and start following the main people that have shaped the nature and landscape of gamification.

More and more degrees and master’s programs offer and include an element of gamification. So if you are studying game design, that is for sure, fantastic grounding, and look for those organizations or those Institute’s and universities that offer gamification as modules, as part of masters, or degree programs. I know in the UK, there’s a number of universities, like for example, Coventry University has some elements of gamification and game design as part of Surrey University, Birmingham, there’s a number of them. So do your research and find out from those of us working in the industry, how did they get to where they are now?

So to share my career track into gamification, so first of all, I always wanted to be a game designer. So as a kid, I was really obsessed with puzzles and crosswords and was making games from when I was the age of seven or eight years old. And so if you have that passion, then you probably have a good inclination that it might be something you want to do. Then look for a career in game design. My parents told me at the time, and this is many, many moons ago, that game design was not for girls and there was no career initially, you know, you better get a real job. So I guess I took a normal degree. I studied international marketing and I also added a degree or an MBA in change management to it. And then only in the last 15 years did I add a diploma in game design, and I studied everybody that was a somebody in the early 2000s, 2010’s.

So, at that time, Gabe Zicherman was a key speaker, and I think a lot of his work in terms of books ond courses. He had a number of courses on Udemy, were excellent, and I would still recommend that you visit them. The other person I studied and read most of the works from was Mario Herger. And he had a course called Enterprise Gamification on Udemy. So another one that I pretty much absorbed. And then Yukai Chou, who I mentioned in last week’s question of the week, who I did always level one, two, and three, Octalysis framework certifications with and then I read extensively all the books of the likes of Andrzej Marczewski research that came out and at the time, the biggest research was coming out of Canada and the `work from Lennart Nacke and Gustavo Tondello. I quite like and I still follow both guys. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting everyone at the stage of the various organizations and often spoken on the same stages, the Coursera course by Kevin Werbach. I mentioned that last week. Also useful materials. In terms of the learning space, a number of people to mention are Karl Kapp and he has courses on LinkedIn. And he also has a number of books on gamification and on Game Design and simulations. I highly recommend his field book in gamification is probably the best and most grounding book for anyone in the learning space. Also look up Zsolt Olah, who has written extensively about gamification, and has a book out there, obviously, Monica Cornetti and Professor game, or Rob Alvarez, who do a lot of work. And I also followed the talks and work of Sylvester Arnab, who’s a professor at Coventry University. So there are many, many people. So at this stage, if you can’t find works about gamification to get yourself into the spirit of how it works, and what it does, you must be living under a rock or not searching very well. So that’s the first thing I will say. So follow all of those. I highly recommend doing a grounding course in game design, because the game design principles will actually make you a better gamification designer.

So because it is the area that we borrow the most from, I also feel it was beneficial to me to add that to the mix of skills that I had? And then how do you get it to work in practice? Well, what you need in the first place is imagination and creativity. After that, pens paper, post it, and a whole bunch of stickers, which you can probably pick up in any stationery shop, tools that primary schools and preschool teachers use, I often find very useful to get started and get creative with people on gamification design. So you don’t need to invest in large amounts of materials, but I actually do recommend that you invest in some core tools that you like to work with. The things I have, obviously I created my gamification design card decks, I use them a lot in workshops with clients to get people started, the problem I had, and the reason why I designed the cards was because

People were asking you, I want to make a game, but I don’t like games, I don’t play games. So it was bringing people together on the same sort of level playing field. So, as a tool, I carried them around for all of my clients, and I sell a lot of them through the website and at workshops. Now, what constitutes a good game? Well, it needs a game type. So, a good gamification concept starts with some kind of concept, an idea of what it is you want to achieve. And in order to achieve that, you can link a game type to it. A game type can be a puzzle, it can be a challenge. It can be a first-person shooter, it can be a multiplayer game. So you decide what it is it can be an adventure, so there’s plenty of choices. The other thing you need is a number of rules. First of all rules on how you can win or lose the game.

So you need obviously an objective, or how can you win and what it is they need to do in order to win and achieve the win condition. So once you have a win condition, and some rules, you effectively have enough to call it a game. Now typically, most games have some more than that in terms of game mechanics. My theory on it is that the game mechanics that you introduce, create a game dynamics that you might want to find or you may not want to find. So for example, the game mechanic of a leaderboard, by default introduces competition, that is, or is maybe not something you may want to introduce in your workplace. The game mechanic of likes and emojis gives you an element of empathy and elements of sharing but also an element of peer recognition or peer pressure. Because if you think about the social media platforms that use likes and emojis, a lot of people post things in order to get recognized by friends and to get that feel good factor. So you also introduce that.

In my view, gamification is probably 80% psychology and 20% actual mechanics. There are many people that say, Oh, it’s all about the game mechanics. Well, you know, I would challenge that. I would actually say it’s much more than that. It’s about understanding your audience. It’s about understanding how people relate well to your content. It’s about understanding what do people actually want to get from your material? How do you want them to engage with your company? What do you want them to do? So it’s about much more than that. So starting point for gamification for any project to me is always understand your users and set clear objectives. And then yes, then, you can go and start adding rules, game mechanics into play and see how it plays out.

In our processes, we tend to refer back and forth to our user base and you know, the intended target audience to see, okay, are we on the right track? If we put this in, does that speak to you? Or does it not? If it doesn’t, then obviously, we need to make sure that you know, we adopted and that we might take it out. We can also sometimes make the judgment call, Well, look, let’s keep a certain game mechanic or a certain game dynamic, and see how it plays out and what kind of behaviour it triggers. Because sometimes what we well intended for good reasons may play out in a bad way. For example, in a sales related gamification process, we have people trying to game the system. And the rules that we laid out were well taught of rules, but people started to create a workaround so they could actually gain the system. And we needed to have multiple ways of evaluating as opposed to just one single way of evaluation performance any given month or week.

So know that there are gamers in every organization and you’re very likely to come across them. So testing, looking at the data that comes out of your systems, and looking at what do people actually do when presented with the game mechanics that you have? Do they actually respond as intended, or have they got some other response to it, which you may not have anticipated, which is over and above what you expected, or totally the opposite of what you wanted to create. So you want to watch out for all of that.

The best way to do that is to let people loose on your system, whether that’s paper-based and I always, always recommend start with paper, develop everything on paper and then graduate into digital. It will save you a lot of money later on if you’ve tested on paper first. testing on paper is great fun in workshops and gives lots of good input, new ideas, etc. So don’t overlook it. Unless you have, of course, have unlimited pockets and an unlimited budget, in which case, feel free to go ahead and hire really expensive developers and designers and get a bespoke project on. But our recommended methods are paper first. Once proven on paper, let’s go digital, and then digitally track what people do observe, look at data reports that come back to you.

Most gamification platforms on the market today will allow you to see data analytics, sometimes you may need to make sense out of them. So you mean may need to create custom reports for them to actually make sense to your yourself but also to the people that need to co-evaluate with you. To be clear on what it is that you want to find out which of the things you want to track, and then set it up accordingly. So how do you get started beyond that in big organizations? I always recommend, find one group, one pilot project, one pilot team that you can start with, when you have proven that it works for one team then gradually move out farther, I wouldn’t be a big fan of rolling a big project out to everyone in one go. Because it’s very hard to control. And it’s very hard to get right in that case. And if you then need to make changes, you actually do often upset a lot of the users who have to reuse and unlearn and relearn behaviours or newer tools, which typically they don’t like and, you know, don’t find fun, so you’ll get a lot of negative feedback. So other than that, go for it. Have fun.

Our cheapest of game designs today in the or two days in the working world in the corporate sector is has been done with a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker. So that’s the cheapest we have been able to do it. So if that’s the kind of budget you have, be creative with what you have. You don’t have to have big budgets to get things done. You can start on a small budget, if you want to have something digital, there are very cost effective solutions out there. And some of the bigger platforms will allow you to start let’s say one month free of charge or one-month trials, which then allow you to test whether it will work for a group or not. But what I would recommend there is that still do it on paper first and then graduate into putting it on your website, putting it on to an app or whichever form or platform you decide to use. Tests on paper, start on paper, read, have fun, play games.

Games are the highest form of research, or that’s what Einstein said. And you know, can’t argue with a smart man like this. So I hope you like this version or this week’s question of gamification. It is a bit of a build up from last week. So there is a little bit of crossover. And if you’ve listened last week, you might recognize one or two items. Last week, it was about keeping up to date this week, it’s about getting started. So I hope I’ve given you a little bit of a different slant. And if you like our episodes, please do rate them on the platform that you listen, it gives us a bit of a boost in our rankings. So we always like that. And if you think there are people that may want to hear this, do share it forward to your friends and family and colleagues and whoever you think could benefit. I love talking to you and I hope to hear from you soon. Put your questions in our comments on our blog and we’ll aim to answer them in our next sessions of a Question of Gamification.


The post Podcast 12: How to get started with gamification? appeared first on Gamification Nation.