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Graphics or text what is more useful in gamification?

Top tips on using graphics in gamification design

a picture can say a 1000 words - the importance of graphics in gamification design

The saying a picture tells a thousand words is often used to describe the impact a graphical image can have over and above words. In our current media landscape, the visual and moving image is well and truly represented. Social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest are strictly image focused and give rise to memes and gif’s as well as allowing everyone to be a star on their own profile. Smartphones have in their own become a combination between a mini-computer and a camera with some ability to add special effects to your images. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that visual media is on the increase.

For business communication, we still often see the written word as the main way to communicate. Although it is no longer rare to receive a business email with some emoticons built in. Marketing and advertising are the core exceptions to this statement, who have always had to rely on visuals for impact. The combination of the trend towards visual and decreasing attention spans is giving rise to an increased demand for visual imagery in gamification design as well. I would even go as far as saying that some enterprise tools are starting to look more like a game environment than a traditional computer application (thank goodness!).

Tip 1: Consider your platform

The first choices that you need make in graphical gamification design is to understand through what media your people will be accessing your design. Enterprise computers don’t have the same specifications as the latest gamer computergamer PC in most workplaces, which by default means image sizing impacts the load factor of your application. Nobody will forgive you if they have to wait for your images to load in a world where time is money. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative or go all the way to 3D, it just means you need to keep file size and load in mind.
Graphical elements often have to sit within enterprise applications, so flat 2D images often work well for that reason.

Mobile devices for workers on the move often are the main mode of communication whilst travelling for work. Gamification can still work on the device but in this case, your maximum stretch is 2.5D when you want to create a 3D feel but only from one perspective. If you are graphics into mobile apps the request typically is to make them flat and interesting without needing additional perspective. Using potentially augmented reality as your additional dimension would make sense in some gamification work as long as it doesn’t compromise privacy and Pokemon go on phonesecurity regulations. This was highlighted by players of Pokemon Go sharing often secure locations where Pokemon had been hiding.

Pay attention to the needs of your gamification design for graphics and then the type of platform it will be deployed on. Web applications in offices are most common and in this scenario, you can have some freedom in the range of graphics used, you could even go as far as a virtual world as long as no firewalls need to be climbed. If the majority of the gamification design sits within existing enterprise applications or on mobile devices then I would recommend sticking with trusted 2D imagery which can still create the impact you want.

Tip 2: Consider the emotion

Images can conjure up emotions and knowing from the outset what you want to convey is important. It will drive the choice of colours, the shapes and the kinds of graphics that would also not be appropriate.

Just look at these three to see what I mean here 😉

emotions in imagesemotions in pictureemotion

I think I can guess which one made you smile and which one made you wonder. All of them can work in the right context. The press works with images to shock and evoke emotions. No matter how immune we think we have become, images can be a very powerful means of expression and have often swung people into action. Just think about politics when a recent picture of a father and child not making it in a river crossing was the cause for further intense questioning of current policies. You may never have to go as far as this with images for workplace-related material, but at the same time used sparingly shock can be useful as a tactic to wake people up and make a difference. We have had a simple traffic light colour change in some of our designs as keys to driving behaviour adjustments.

If nothing else is available to you, even the simple style of emoticons works well on both mobile and desktop. and they can be added to most applications today without additional coding requirements, even if the image is still always better than the typed version 😉

emoticons

Tip 3: Keep it consistent with your brand and culture or not!

The brand police in most organisations will be the first to come and tell you this, so the tip to consult the brand police shouldn’t be a surprise to those of us working within the corporate sector for a long time. You will find them in either corporate communications or marketing if you don’t have a brand ambassador tasked with keeping track on what is used or not. I remember being pulled back once for writing above a line on a slide deck and using pictures of real people.

Whether you stick with the brand or consciously break with it, should be a consideration for your gamification design. Sticking with the brand is a clear indication of business as usual, let’s keep it blended. If you want to shock people into change standing out from the crowd may be more appropriate.

If you look at LinkedIn, it is a good example of a very subtle and blended social media platform. Even their recent addition of emoticons sticks with the brand messaging of slightly more professional than social. Another example Classcraft, an educational platform aimed at teenagers, has a complete range of graphics, characters and is not miles away from recognisable games. Again both are totally appropriate for their audience and fitting with their branding.

Culturally some images are offensive and inappropriate, knowing where to draw the line is important. Picking a cross-section of images that represents the various races and gender in your organisation is in my view always recommendable.

Images can replace the need to translate text and transcend cultural boundaries. In most games, the core gameplay is represented in imagery, so that even people that don’t master the language can at least play. When you are in a multinational setting, this could be something to keep in mind which may make your gamification more accessible and provide some cost savings when no localisation is required. Graphics in gamification can be the language used to portray progress, achievement, consequences, etc.

Bonus tip: It doesn’t have to be a virtual world

virtual worldSome people in our line of work are promoting virtual worlds and virtual reality to make an impact. I believe it can and has a place. Yet not every system and not every gamified process fits this type of output. In learning a virtual world can create that safe lifelike place where you can test out new skills. Anywhere where practising on real systems entails a level of risk of safety, virtual worlds or virtual reality are highly recommendable.

When you have to get the job done on a regular enterprise platform however, then jumping in and out of a virtual world may just make the process more complex rather than enhance it. If the graphical interfaces complicate the process, then my advice is to keep it simpler.

 

 

 

 

How to choose between a game or gamification?

The post Graphics or text what is more useful in gamification? appeared first on Gamification Nation.

5 physiological pre-conditions to optimise learning

Two weeks ago I mentioned research by the Aspen institute around the different needs at different ages for stimulation of our brain for learning. In the same research document, the researchers outlined, the 5 pre-conditions necessary to optimise our ability to develop our brain and to learn. Some of these come as no surprise but maybe one or two will have a few people questioning.

  1. Sleep and rest

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to get this one. The media today has plenty to say about the fact that we need enough sleep to deliver at optimal performance levels in most things. In fact, our brain needs rest and sleep to remove the toxins that build up during our waking hours and works on our cognitive memories and other brain networks that keep our learning organised. If we don’t sleep enough these functions may be compromised and can result in mood swings, impaired decision making and other side effects. For anyone that has done any 72 hours or even 48-hour challenges, you do feel your body and brain aching for sleep and also accepting some weird and wonderful ideas, which after a great rest you can recognise as fundamentally flawed.

2. Nutrition and low exposure to toxins

Sufficient nutrition and the absence of toxins especially for children are seen to have a significant impact on their brain development. Too much sugar and fat, not enough iron and other nutrients are considered reasons why brain development around memory, cognition and learning may not work in an optimal way and even lead to impairments. Exposure to environmental toxins such as pollution can hamper brain development and the use of drugs and alcohol clearly also has a negative impact. Just when you thought obesity was the main consequence of our unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles, you now have brain development to add to the mix. In schools around the world providing breakfast and healthy lunches has become part of the curriculum to combat some of the deficiencies some children experience at home. But in the corporate sector or adult learning, I don’t see that many actions in this space.

3. Physical activity, exercise and green space

Fitness and physical activity are necessary to keep the neural networks in your brain working in an efficient and organised manner. Effectively physical activity enhances brain activity. Research has proven that physical activity has both short term and long term impact on general well-being but also on academic achievement and learning related behaviour. Taking exercise in a green space increases the sense of well-being another bit.

Somehow this doesn’t come as a surprise but yet, I know I am guilty of not taking enough exercise to keep at my best performance. Travel, workload and deadlines often my main reasons for not necessarily taking the time to be out and about exercising in nature. When I do however I can feel the difference both immediately after and for the rest I get as a result. When it comes to learning environments such as schools playing in the playground and daily exercise should really be part of the standard.

4. Emotional well-being, social relationship and a feeling of safety and belonging

Chronic and excessive stress, as well as loneliness, are toxic to brain development. Emotional well-being, on the other hand, influences good health and optimal brain development and learning. Stress from threats to emotional safety and belonging, such as bullying, abuse, rejection can lead to short term impairments relating to memory and cognitive functioning in the short term and in the longer term it can lead to premature ageing of both brain and body. Supportive parents, friends and community as well as school programs to help young people in these situations can go some way to reduce the negative impact. Equally spending time outside in green space can assist in creating a better feeling of general well-being.

Both in our childhood and adult life I can see how these factors will impact how we learn and adopt new information. But I never imagined it could be as profound as research is indicating. In gamification, through scenarios, we often make it safe to learn and by playing both individually and together we can see how certain skills can be learned first in the safety of a training environment before applying them to real life. In therapy, we see the use of virtual green spaces and worlds to help people who have experienced chronic stress, depression and other mental illnesses and allows them to claw back a bit of their identity and sense of belonging.

5. Cultural well-being

Feeling part of a community or culture where you experience a shared history, similar values, rituals, lifestyle and purpose are a good foundation for both physiology and cognition. However, any experience of discrimination from one group, or race or gender or whatever other diversifiers, to another causes harm. I don’t think it should come as a surprise that discrimination leads to feelings in inadequacy, inequality, lowering of expectations, misalignment of goals based on cultural settings and all sorts of other stereotyping. In short, it is not conducive to a great learning environment nor for people of different cultures to thrive.

 

To me, this is a fabulous top 5 of conditions to create ideal learning environments for both young and old. As we are more and more driven into urban environments taking regular breaks into nature, paying attention to our sleep, diet and exercise seem ideal. In some way it makes me think that our bodies know what they need to thrive, yet it is our humanity that has created unhealthy behaviours. Obviously, if we could replace power and domination with inclusion and empathy that will work further wonders for all of us looking to learn for the long haul.

In our work in gamification design, we take research pieces like this into account and work on creating ideal spaces for our clients to thrive and learn. Inclusion of ability, culture and gender is at the core of our work and now we know there is a good reason for it, it helps us learn better! (apart from the great reason that it is best for all involved on a personal level too)

Inclusion by ability

The post 5 physiological pre-conditions to optimise learning appeared first on Gamification Nation.

5 physiological pre-conditions to optimise learning

Two weeks ago I mentioned research by the Aspen institute around the different needs at different ages for stimulation of our brain for learning. In the same research document, the researchers outlined, the 5 pre-conditions necessary to optimise our ability to develop our brain and to learn. Some of these come as no surprise but maybe one or two will have a few people questioning.

  1. Sleep and rest

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to get this one. The media today has plenty to say about the fact that we need enough sleep to deliver at optimal performance levels in most things. In fact, our brain needs rest and sleep to remove the toxins that build up during our waking hours and works on our cognitive memories and other brain networks that keep our learning organised. If we don’t sleep enough these functions may be compromised and can result in mood swings, impaired decision making and other side effects. For anyone that has done any 72 hours or even 48-hour challenges, you do feel your body and brain aching for sleep and also accepting some weird and wonderful ideas, which after a great rest you can recognise as fundamentally flawed.

2. Nutrition and low exposure to toxins

Sufficient nutrition and the absence of toxins especially for children are seen to have a significant impact on their brain development. Too much sugar and fat, not enough iron and other nutrients are considered reasons why brain development around memory, cognition and learning may not work in an optimal way and even lead to impairments. Exposure to environmental toxins such as pollution can hamper brain development and the use of drugs and alcohol clearly also has a negative impact. Just when you thought obesity was the main consequence of our unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles, you now have brain development to add to the mix. In schools around the world providing breakfast and healthy lunches has become part of the curriculum to combat some of the deficiencies some children experience at home. But in the corporate sector or adult learning, I don’t see that many actions in this space.

3. Physical activity, exercise and green space

Fitness and physical activity are necessary to keep the neural networks in your brain working in an efficient and organised manner. Effectively physical activity enhances brain activity. Research has proven that physical activity has both short term and long term impact on general well-being but also on academic achievement and learning related behaviour. Taking exercise in a green space increases the sense of well-being another bit.

Somehow this doesn’t come as a surprise but yet, I know I am guilty of not taking enough exercise to keep at my best performance. Travel, workload and deadlines often my main reasons for not necessarily taking the time to be out and about exercising in nature. When I do however I can feel the difference both immediately after and for the rest I get as a result. When it comes to learning environments such as schools playing in the playground and daily exercise should really be part of the standard.

4. Emotional well-being, social relationship and a feeling of safety and belonging

Chronic and excessive stress, as well as loneliness, are toxic to brain development. Emotional well-being, on the other hand, influences good health and optimal brain development and learning. Stress from threats to emotional safety and belonging, such as bullying, abuse, rejection can lead to short term impairments relating to memory and cognitive functioning in the short term and in the longer term it can lead to premature ageing of both brain and body. Supportive parents, friends and community as well as school programs to help young people in these situations can go some way to reduce the negative impact. Equally spending time outside in green space can assist in creating a better feeling of general well-being.

Both in our childhood and adult life I can see how these factors will impact how we learn and adopt new information. But I never imagined it could be as profound as research is indicating. In gamification, through scenarios, we often make it safe to learn and by playing both individually and together we can see how certain skills can be learned first in the safety of a training environment before applying them to real life. In therapy, we see the use of virtual green spaces and worlds to help people who have experienced chronic stress, depression and other mental illnesses and allows them to claw back a bit of their identity and sense of belonging.

5. Cultural well-being

Feeling part of a community or culture where you experience a shared history, similar values, rituals, lifestyle and purpose are a good foundation for both physiology and cognition. However, any experience of discrimination from one group, or race or gender or whatever other diversifiers, to another causes harm. I don’t think it should come as a surprise that discrimination leads to feelings in inadequacy, inequality, lowering of expectations, misalignment of goals based on cultural settings and all sorts of other stereotyping. In short, it is not conducive to a great learning environment nor for people of different cultures to thrive.

 

To me, this is a fabulous top 5 of conditions to create ideal learning environments for both young and old. As we are more and more driven into urban environments taking regular breaks into nature, paying attention to our sleep, diet and exercise seem ideal. In some way it makes me think that our bodies know what they need to thrive, yet it is our humanity that has created unhealthy behaviours. Obviously, if we could replace power and domination with inclusion and empathy that will work further wonders for all of us looking to learn for the long haul.

In our work in gamification design, we take research pieces like this into account and work on creating ideal spaces for our clients to thrive and learn. Inclusion of ability, culture and gender is at the core of our work and now we know there is a good reason for it, it helps us learn better! (apart from the great reason that it is best for all involved on a personal level too)

Inclusion by ability

The post 5 physiological pre-conditions to optimise learning appeared first on Gamification Nation.

Podcast 18: What makes gamification fail?

Welcome to this week’s question of gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the show host of the Question of Gamification podcast and the CEO and founder of Gamification Nation or aka chief game changer.

Today’s question of gamification is: what makes gamification fail? Now, first thing, one of my mentors told me at one stage when I was saying, Oh, I don’t want to talk about failure, I think failure is bad. And I do, I do have some hang ups talking about failure. I think they’re private things I do in private. I don’t necessarily want the world to know, he said, “Yeah, but failure is, your first attempt in learning” (First Attempt In Learning =FAIL)

If we look at failure as finding ways of how something doesn’t work. Then we are also accepting that, we are learning. We are not perfect as we come out, day one, which is also a good starting point, because most of us had to learn the hard way on how to do something right and how things have gone wrong. The podcast this week, therefore, focuses on what makes gamification fail.

Unrealistic objectives

First thing, I would say is having unrealistic objectives. We sometimes get asked really unrealistic objectives. We want to have a hundred per cent increase in engagement. Oh, good. Well, and dandy, but what’s your starting point? Do you know what that is? In most cases, companies don’t know the answer to that either. So how can you then know that you are looking for a 100% increase in engagement if you don’t even have a baseline? So be real, get real and start with finding out what your baseline is before you start asking and setting really crazy objectives.

I’m all for stretch goals. I’m all for being ambitious. But I also want to say that in most cases, gamification has had a positive impact. It’s not a regular occurrence that it results in 90, 100 or 200% increase in something. I find those numbers a statistically challenging to accept. If something achieves a 200% improvement then what on earth were you doing before? Or did you exist before? There is a bit of an element of cynicism in that comment for me.

Irrelevant to the end-user

What else makes gamification fail? Well, if it’s not relevant to the end user. Now, that means that you need to get to know your end user. A lot of the time, people who start in gamification, (and we have that sometimes) we are attracted by shiny objects, we could have this and we could have that. And all of a sudden, you end up with a wishlist of ideas.

Definitely, in the early days of our gamification company, we would have been guilty of maybe adding more than we needed. Adding way too many mechanics that made it too complex. And in some of our designs, that still happens and then we take them to user testing. And we find out that they’re not responding quite as enthusiastic as we had hoped, or as we did, and that happens.

Knowing that you are probably going to get excited, you are probably going to add in more than you needed to add in. That is something to be mindful of. And that is something that is also the main reason why you need to have user research and user testing as part of your process. Because that will tell you for real, if you are hitting the mark or not in terms of your designs. So I would say make it relevant. Understand your user. One shortcut to avoid some of these things, is to actually get to know your user better from day one.

We’re currently working on a project where we are not even sure that gamification is the right answer. Because the first survey that came back from the large user base is telling us that really, they are not interested in game mechanics, they’re really not even remotely interested in gaming. They actually want the companies to stick with what it’s great at. So we are questioning whether we should even add gamification at all.

In our user research step two where we do more qualitative research, we’re going to explore these questions a bit deeper. That means having a workshop, asking questions, finding out, okay, what apps do they use? Where are there some that are already gamified? So we know that they are social media users, social media is gamified. We want to know their opinion about those things to see, okay, is there hope or scope for any gamification? And if there is not, I’m not afraid to turn around to the customer and say, Well, look, you know, we advise against it. We advise against adding game elements that may make the experience actually frustrating, because gamification added in the wrong place, for irrelevant reasons, which are not consistent with what users want, or are used to it can add a level of complexity that makes people turn away from your app. That makes people turn away from the actual process.

So consider it carefully. Relevancy is important. Knowing your users is important.

Cater for only one user

Making your gamification design in depth enough, so that it appeals to more than one user type. In all of the companies that we’ve worked with, we have found that typically, there’s more than one type of user in large organisations of up to 30,000 and 40,000 people. You will find that there are maybe two or three very clear profiles that are coming out, personas that you can build for and different things that they respond to and engage towards.

I would say always make sure that your gamification design is not stuck in superficial points and leaderboards. Because they’re is actually much more that you can do. You can do engaging storylines, you can do quite difficult treasure hunts or puzzles. You can add, unlocking of things, finding of things that you need a level of skill to do, to earn starters, as a way of earning something. But earning something that’s hard, meaningful, and that you can be proud of, is much more of a motivator for a lot of people. Instead of throwing badges around as if there was confetti raining out of the skies.

There are lots of ways that your gamification design can be much more engaging and much more interesting. So don’t shy away from doing that. You want there to be an emotional connection.

One of my my heroes in the game design world is Jane McGonigle and she in her books describes how game designers are obsessed with creating emotional experiences. As gamification designers, we should be too! If we translate that into gamification, for a company, for HR, for your employees, for your customers. The question should be how can you draw them into an emotional experience that they won’t forget? That they will find so good that they’ll tell all their friends about. That’s the type of engagement that you want to look for. If you don’t think it’s “Wow” at the end of your design, then keep digging, keep going because then you’ve probably only hit superficial and superficial can make games and gamification fail.

No clear objectives

You also want to connect gamification to objectives. Every organisation has them. You have learning objectives for learning, you have productivity objectives in most workplaces, project objectives for most projects. You have performance measures, KPIs, and many, many more measures of success, which happen time and again, for each and every organisations we’ve ever worked with.

Adding gamification into the mix, can allow people to get to the results quicker. It also encourages certain types of behaviour. And knowing what type of behaviour you want to go away from and towards is important to understand. What drives salespeople to perform is knowing how they can make the most commission in a lot of cases, and how they can be top of the leaderboard, because a lot of salespeople, in our experience have a bit of a competitive streak, especially if they can earn extra, either status, bonus, incentives, you name it, most of them have done things to achieve that. And most of the top performers have here and they’re taken a shortcut to get there.

Your best performers may also be in some cases, your worst examples. As we learned from one client on a sales gamification project, he said, don’t go with my top performers go with my middle of the road guys who deliver in each and every month close to the target. Because they have best practice, whereas my top guys, they know who to ring three minutes before the quarter end, and rack in the numbers.

You want to make sure that there is a connection to objectives, but that the objectives are not so or the gamification is not so transparent, that everyone knows what to do, and only focuses on that one thing. Because people are smart, they will find out what you’re measuring and that’s all they do, all day long, until they get what they need to get. Be aware of that and build in enough complexity, so they can’t figure it out too easily. But by all means, do tie it to specific objectives.

No consequences and no negative feedback

Gamification gives a sense of progression and a sense of feedback. And in some companies, they shy away from giving negative feedback. But sometimes that’s exactly what a person needs to hear or see, for them to actually change their behaviour. Build in consequences that are positive, build in measured consequences that are negative only when they are frequent offenders, or let’s say display unwanted behaviors.

In one situation, we saw gamification for attendance. And instead of giving praise for an unbroken attendance record, we saw people getting praise for arriving on time. So guess what happened? People asked others to log them in. There were queues to get their cards scanned at the door, whereas before you may have entered as a group, now each person was entering individually. You basically moved the problem.

You want to double examine, what is it you’re doing? What is it you want as the outcome? And how will that translate into actual behaviour? I cannot stress enough how important user testing is, because user testing will show up some of those dysfunctional behaviours. If in doubt, start with a small pilot, run it and then see if it can translate to the rest of the organisation. If the pilot is successful, go with it. If not, don’t be afraid to throw it out and start again, or keep tweaking until it does work.

Right first time and one size fits all

“Right first time” and “one size fits all” are two other things that I have seen that make gamification fail. There is, I suppose, an apprehension in business, that if we need to keep changing it, you will never be perfect. But then, if you think about it, business is evolutionary, sales is evolutionary. What sold five years ago may not sell anymore. What worked in internet marketing five years ago doesn’t work anymore. There are things that are changing, and those we should change with. There are things that are constant, such as people feeling respected, people feeling valued people feeling like they matter and that we should acknowledge and design for. And that if you can achieve that, as part of your gamification, you’re on to something.

If you’re not touching any emotion whatsoever, I would safely say you are on a road to forgettable.

It’s some of the things that we would hope to do in our designs, namely that we actually do create a connection that we do create a regular dialogue. That we provide the best possible solution for the companies we work with. Just know that each new trend, each new way of working will take time, and will take maybe more than one try to get it right. As long as you’re up for it that, then you have a chance of making it work.

Unfair

One more item. One final bonus reason why gamification fails is that it wasn’t designed to be fair. If you only have one audience or one way of measuring success, you want to make sure that it is fair for your audience. Unfairness can come in many ways. In game design, you often have a situation that gives the winner more boosters, but to balance out, you may need to give the slower person easier levels, and easier ways of working.

Keeping that balance is probably the hardest thing to do in most games, but also in gamification design. Is it important for the user? Is it important for you? And is it important for the objectives are some key considerations to always take on board and evaluate because what’s important to you, as the creator or even the manager of a team may not be of value to the end user at all, but you need them to do it.

Sales administration for a salesperson is a necessary evil, but not every salesperson likes doing it. Yet, at the same time, it provides continuity for sales processes, and for sales teams to operate significantly better.

There are sometimes things that you need to balance, rewarding a person for what matters to them, but also for what matters, as part of the progress to give them encouragement can help. Make sure that if you’re rewarding or giving extra toys to those at the top, or those at the bottom, that they are not so big that they would flip the whole result around.

In one situation I saw in an award ceremony, a price flipping from the first place to the second placed person just by one game mechanic. Now that I don’t think is correct, there should have been more complex systems in place when all judges had voted in favour. There was something wrong in the basic design and the basic balancing in that sense.  If they had both played, the winner and second place person would stay the same. But because only one of them used a game mechanic and knew about it, that flipped the equation, and I don’t think then, if people don’t use what they’re given, of course, it’s a choice. But it’s also a question of balance, and a question of fairness. Is it fair and inclusive for all?

Why does gamification fail? Well, there’s a multitude of reasons. What makes it fail is trying to do things quickly, expecting crazy expectations, not linking it to what’s relevant to the user, not linking it to objectives, trying to do too much with too little. And the obvious one is superficial design. If you are superficial, and you don’t engage on an emotional level, then I can tell pretty sure that you may have a very lukewarm effect with gamification.

I hope this answers the question of what makes gamification fail. I look forward to hearing your questions. If you liked our podcast, do give us a rating. And if you have additional questions, do make sure that you send them to us. Thank you for listening,

 

Podcast 10: How to create engagement in your community with gamification

The post Podcast 18: What makes gamification fail? appeared first on Gamification Nation.

Podcast 18: What makes gamification fail?

Welcome to this week’s question of gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the show host of the Question of Gamification podcast and the CEO and founder of Gamification Nation or aka chief game changer.

Today’s question of gamification is: what makes gamification fail? Now, first thing, one of my mentors told me at one stage when I was saying, Oh, I don’t want to talk about failure, I think failure is bad. And I do, I do have some hang ups talking about failure. I think they’re private things I do in private. I don’t necessarily want the world to know, he said, “Yeah, but failure is, your first attempt in learning” (First Attempt In Learning =FAIL)

If we look at failure as finding ways of how something doesn’t work. Then we are also accepting that, we are learning. We are not perfect as we come out, day one, which is also a good starting point, because most of us had to learn the hard way on how to do something right and how things have gone wrong. The podcast this week, therefore, focuses on what makes gamification fail.

Unrealistic objectives

First thing, I would say is having unrealistic objectives. We sometimes get asked really unrealistic objectives. We want to have a hundred per cent increase in engagement. Oh, good. Well, and dandy, but what’s your starting point? Do you know what that is? In most cases, companies don’t know the answer to that either. So how can you then know that you are looking for a 100% increase in engagement if you don’t even have a baseline? So be real, get real and start with finding out what your baseline is before you start asking and setting really crazy objectives.

I’m all for stretch goals. I’m all for being ambitious. But I also want to say that in most cases, gamification has had a positive impact. It’s not a regular occurrence that it results in 90, 100 or 200% increase in something. I find those numbers a statistically challenging to accept. If something achieves a 200% improvement then what on earth were you doing before? Or did you exist before? There is a bit of an element of cynicism in that comment for me.

Irrelevant to the end-user

What else makes gamification fail? Well, if it’s not relevant to the end user. Now, that means that you need to get to know your end user. A lot of the time, people who start in gamification, (and we have that sometimes) we are attracted by shiny objects, we could have this and we could have that. And all of a sudden, you end up with a wishlist of ideas.

Definitely, in the early days of our gamification company, we would have been guilty of maybe adding more than we needed. Adding way too many mechanics that made it too complex. And in some of our designs, that still happens and then we take them to user testing. And we find out that they’re not responding quite as enthusiastic as we had hoped, or as we did, and that happens.

Knowing that you are probably going to get excited, you are probably going to add in more than you needed to add in. That is something to be mindful of. And that is something that is also the main reason why you need to have user research and user testing as part of your process. Because that will tell you for real, if you are hitting the mark or not in terms of your designs. So I would say make it relevant. Understand your user. One shortcut to avoid some of these things, is to actually get to know your user better from day one.

We’re currently working on a project where we are not even sure that gamification is the right answer. Because the first survey that came back from the large user base is telling us that really, they are not interested in game mechanics, they’re really not even remotely interested in gaming. They actually want the companies to stick with what it’s great at. So we are questioning whether we should even add gamification at all.

In our user research step two where we do more qualitative research, we’re going to explore these questions a bit deeper. That means having a workshop, asking questions, finding out, okay, what apps do they use? Where are there some that are already gamified? So we know that they are social media users, social media is gamified. We want to know their opinion about those things to see, okay, is there hope or scope for any gamification? And if there is not, I’m not afraid to turn around to the customer and say, Well, look, you know, we advise against it. We advise against adding game elements that may make the experience actually frustrating, because gamification added in the wrong place, for irrelevant reasons, which are not consistent with what users want, or are used to it can add a level of complexity that makes people turn away from your app. That makes people turn away from the actual process.

So consider it carefully. Relevancy is important. Knowing your users is important.

Cater for only one user

Making your gamification design in depth enough, so that it appeals to more than one user type. In all of the companies that we’ve worked with, we have found that typically, there’s more than one type of user in large organisations of up to 30,000 and 40,000 people. You will find that there are maybe two or three very clear profiles that are coming out, personas that you can build for and different things that they respond to and engage towards.

I would say always make sure that your gamification design is not stuck in superficial points and leaderboards. Because they’re is actually much more that you can do. You can do engaging storylines, you can do quite difficult treasure hunts or puzzles. You can add, unlocking of things, finding of things that you need a level of skill to do, to earn starters, as a way of earning something. But earning something that’s hard, meaningful, and that you can be proud of, is much more of a motivator for a lot of people. Instead of throwing badges around as if there was confetti raining out of the skies.

There are lots of ways that your gamification design can be much more engaging and much more interesting. So don’t shy away from doing that. You want there to be an emotional connection.

One of my my heroes in the game design world is Jane McGonigle and she in her books describes how game designers are obsessed with creating emotional experiences. As gamification designers, we should be too! If we translate that into gamification, for a company, for HR, for your employees, for your customers. The question should be how can you draw them into an emotional experience that they won’t forget? That they will find so good that they’ll tell all their friends about. That’s the type of engagement that you want to look for. If you don’t think it’s “Wow” at the end of your design, then keep digging, keep going because then you’ve probably only hit superficial and superficial can make games and gamification fail.

No clear objectives

You also want to connect gamification to objectives. Every organisation has them. You have learning objectives for learning, you have productivity objectives in most workplaces, project objectives for most projects. You have performance measures, KPIs, and many, many more measures of success, which happen time and again, for each and every organisations we’ve ever worked with.

Adding gamification into the mix, can allow people to get to the results quicker. It also encourages certain types of behaviour. And knowing what type of behaviour you want to go away from and towards is important to understand. What drives salespeople to perform is knowing how they can make the most commission in a lot of cases, and how they can be top of the leaderboard, because a lot of salespeople, in our experience have a bit of a competitive streak, especially if they can earn extra, either status, bonus, incentives, you name it, most of them have done things to achieve that. And most of the top performers have here and they’re taken a shortcut to get there.

Your best performers may also be in some cases, your worst examples. As we learned from one client on a sales gamification project, he said, don’t go with my top performers go with my middle of the road guys who deliver in each and every month close to the target. Because they have best practice, whereas my top guys, they know who to ring three minutes before the quarter end, and rack in the numbers.

You want to make sure that there is a connection to objectives, but that the objectives are not so or the gamification is not so transparent, that everyone knows what to do, and only focuses on that one thing. Because people are smart, they will find out what you’re measuring and that’s all they do, all day long, until they get what they need to get. Be aware of that and build in enough complexity, so they can’t figure it out too easily. But by all means, do tie it to specific objectives.

No consequences and no negative feedback

Gamification gives a sense of progression and a sense of feedback. And in some companies, they shy away from giving negative feedback. But sometimes that’s exactly what a person needs to hear or see, for them to actually change their behaviour. Build in consequences that are positive, build in measured consequences that are negative only when they are frequent offenders, or let’s say display unwanted behaviors.

In one situation, we saw gamification for attendance. And instead of giving praise for an unbroken attendance record, we saw people getting praise for arriving on time. So guess what happened? People asked others to log them in. There were queues to get their cards scanned at the door, whereas before you may have entered as a group, now each person was entering individually. You basically moved the problem.

You want to double examine, what is it you’re doing? What is it you want as the outcome? And how will that translate into actual behaviour? I cannot stress enough how important user testing is, because user testing will show up some of those dysfunctional behaviours. If in doubt, start with a small pilot, run it and then see if it can translate to the rest of the organisation. If the pilot is successful, go with it. If not, don’t be afraid to throw it out and start again, or keep tweaking until it does work.

Right first time and one size fits all

“Right first time” and “one size fits all” are two other things that I have seen that make gamification fail. There is, I suppose, an apprehension in business, that if we need to keep changing it, you will never be perfect. But then, if you think about it, business is evolutionary, sales is evolutionary. What sold five years ago may not sell anymore. What worked in internet marketing five years ago doesn’t work anymore. There are things that are changing, and those we should change with. There are things that are constant, such as people feeling respected, people feeling valued people feeling like they matter and that we should acknowledge and design for. And that if you can achieve that, as part of your gamification, you’re on to something.

If you’re not touching any emotion whatsoever, I would safely say you are on a road to forgettable.

It’s some of the things that we would hope to do in our designs, namely that we actually do create a connection that we do create a regular dialogue. That we provide the best possible solution for the companies we work with. Just know that each new trend, each new way of working will take time, and will take maybe more than one try to get it right. As long as you’re up for it that, then you have a chance of making it work.

Unfair

One more item. One final bonus reason why gamification fails is that it wasn’t designed to be fair. If you only have one audience or one way of measuring success, you want to make sure that it is fair for your audience. Unfairness can come in many ways. In game design, you often have a situation that gives the winner more boosters, but to balance out, you may need to give the slower person easier levels, and easier ways of working.

Keeping that balance is probably the hardest thing to do in most games, but also in gamification design. Is it important for the user? Is it important for you? And is it important for the objectives are some key considerations to always take on board and evaluate because what’s important to you, as the creator or even the manager of a team may not be of value to the end user at all, but you need them to do it.

Sales administration for a salesperson is a necessary evil, but not every salesperson likes doing it. Yet, at the same time, it provides continuity for sales processes, and for sales teams to operate significantly better.

There are sometimes things that you need to balance, rewarding a person for what matters to them, but also for what matters, as part of the progress to give them encouragement can help. Make sure that if you’re rewarding or giving extra toys to those at the top, or those at the bottom, that they are not so big that they would flip the whole result around.

In one situation I saw in an award ceremony, a price flipping from the first place to the second placed person just by one game mechanic. Now that I don’t think is correct, there should have been more complex systems in place when all judges had voted in favour. There was something wrong in the basic design and the basic balancing in that sense.  If they had both played, the winner and second place person would stay the same. But because only one of them used a game mechanic and knew about it, that flipped the equation, and I don’t think then, if people don’t use what they’re given, of course, it’s a choice. But it’s also a question of balance, and a question of fairness. Is it fair and inclusive for all?

Why does gamification fail? Well, there’s a multitude of reasons. What makes it fail is trying to do things quickly, expecting crazy expectations, not linking it to what’s relevant to the user, not linking it to objectives, trying to do too much with too little. And the obvious one is superficial design. If you are superficial, and you don’t engage on an emotional level, then I can tell pretty sure that you may have a very lukewarm effect with gamification.

I hope this answers the question of what makes gamification fail. I look forward to hearing your questions. If you liked our podcast, do give us a rating. And if you have additional questions, do make sure that you send them to us. Thank you for listening,

 

Podcast 10: How to create engagement in your community with gamification

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