martes, 4 de junio de 2013

Gamification Design Steps: 4 critical questions (II)

Gamification Design Steps: 4 critical questions

How do i design a great Gamification experience? What are the main points that i have to take into account before even thinking about game elements? And most important of all, do we fully understand what we are doing?

Those are the typical thoughts that might pop up in your mind (also mine) when designing a gamified experience, questions that sooner or later we all have to answer in order to deliver a great experience to our players.

And to do so, we need to step a bit back (as we always do in Epic Win Blog) to the introduction of the "Gamification Design Steps" series in order to refresh some knowledge and see which are those critical questions. Let's all have a quick look here:
OK! Here we are again! Now we remember again that gamification is all about designing fun experiences that lead to happiness and motivation and that one of the most important parts of the design process, is the very beginning. Because in the end, designing gamified experiences is like a game, we need to have a goal (the WHY) in order to know what actions to take (the WHAT and the WHO).

So, as we have seen before, there are 4 questions to take into account when designing a great gamification experience: WHY, WHAT, WHO and HOW. In this post, we are going to analyse the first 3 of them, leaving the How and the model that describes it ("The 3 Pyramids") for the third and last part of these series, once we have already mastered the answer to the others.

STEP 1 - Understand WHY

Imagine for a second that you are the CEO of one of the leading companies in gamification. One day, you receive and email from the CMO of a huge enterprise telling you that they might be interested in gamification, but since it's all kind of new, they want you to meet them at their HQ in order to explain it in further detail.

After some minutes jumping around and opening Champagne bottles "Formula One" Style to celebrate it, you might want to think for a second where is your pitch going to start. And you may want to begin causing a big WOW explaining the WHY of gamification, or in business executive words, what i get from it in numbers. 

So, why do we apply gamification? Because we want to achieve a goal through happiness and people's motivation (for more info about it check my post on gamasutra here: In overall, Gamification can be used to achieve any of the following goals:

- Getting better results

- Going viral

- Increasing time spent & engagement

Better results: Ever wondered why Nike became all of a sudden one of the top brands for runners? It wasn't like that some years ago, when Asics, K-swiss or Reebok were more popular among the running crowd. However, since Nike+ and related strategies were launched, the company has become one of the standards worldwide, increasing its market share. Talking about results, what about the gamified learning experiences? In a world where kids are surrounded by interactivity and rich virtual environments that provide great amounts of stimuli, what is more likely to be successful? Duolingo or a boring english academy? And what would happen when those children begin to work?

Up until now, it is clear that gamification produces better results wherever it is applied: more profitable businesses, better school marks, greater performance at work, etc. However, always remember that gamification is not suitable for everything! If you want to know more check my post on "When NOT to apply gamification" here:

Going viral: Gamification is not only a way to improve your results, but also a path to viral experiences and growth hacking. One of the best examples of growth hacking, was Dropbox, that offered small rewards and achievements in order to get more users. It was a very basic approach but it worked quite well.

The next level of going viral is Foursquare and its finer gamification experience that has turn the platform into the leading startup for social geolocation. Other platforms that have implemented a gamified growth hacking experience have been Fitocracy, Karmacracy or the new Read Social App supported by Gabe Zichermann.

What is clear, is that gamification is a very powerful tool for attracting more players to your system and we' ll see how to do that in following posts on this blog, when talking about mechanics in greater detail. 

Increasing Time spent & Engagement: How many hours did you spend playing Final Fantasy, Wow, Angry Birds, Pacman, Monkey Island, Super Mario or any other great games? I guess a lot, as i also did, just because "you couldn't stop playing".

That's why, It is of no surprise that one of the most powerful effects of gamification is the engagement that it produces. We've all seen kids playing countless hours on their video consoles, or adults playing on their smartphones non-stop.

What is it about video games that are so engaging? Well, we could be hours discussing that but mostly it is due to the fun they create. There are games for every type of person and many different types of fun. I have my own category of fun types
but there are many others done by Leblanc, Lazzaro, Radoff, etc. Anyway, the most important thing here is that gamified experiences really engage people to spend more time on your system if well designed, and they do so, because they are a source of happiness, fun and motivation. 

Last but not least, always remember that gamification is not the panacea!! If the Value Proposition is terrible there's not that much it can do!! To gain some knowledge in modeling value propositions read the books of Alexander Osterwalder!! 

STEP 2 - Establish WHAT

We have gone through the main benefits of using gamification and it's time to move on! Now we know our goal, let's say we are gamifying to increase our user engagement. So how are we going to achieve this?
Well, even before knowing the type of players that we are going to have or foster in our system (conducting research on that can be done since the very beginning and actually, it's advisable to do so) we need to know what actions they are going to take in order to achieve our goal. But why setting the actions before knowing our players? Just for a reason: we are setting desired behaviours, actions that we think will help to achieve our goal, and once we've done it, it's time to model them, see which mechanics, aesthetics and stories they are going to be filled with.

So the next step is deciding how, and they are many ways to do so and since every system and case is going to be different it is of help to ask ourselves some of the following questions:

- Why are we applying gamification? What is the goal, the purpose of it?

- What actions could take our players to achieve that? What is the core of them?

- Are those actions related to the objective in some way? Does it make sense?

- Can we establish a mechanic, aesthetic or story to encourage that action?
Some examples could be: 

- Nike wants to sell more of their running trainers, so they want people to run more, and become more active.

- Karmacracy wants to gain more users so they want people to share more links, be more social and use their links instead of ones.

- Line wants to become the number one chat app gaining loads of users and engaging them in more activities rather than texting, so they want people to use all of their services, use their chats more effectively and create buzz about it.

STEP 3 - Know your players and foster ALL

Our last step in this post is knowing your players! As we all imagine, it's necessary to know what kind of people are going to use our system in order to make them happy and motivated. Quite obvious right? But... How do we actually know them? And here is where the tricky part of describing the players (as Prof. Kevin Werbach states) comes, how do we get all the data?

And i say this, because there are many gamification player types models (check out mine based on Andrzej Marczewski here: but they are all very useful when we GET the data. Without any reliable data they are less powerful. 

So, two ways of getting data about our players:

- Internal: all the data that we already have about our users. There are many ways to interpretate this, but i usually like to do it following systems like VALS, or similar.

- External: the difficult part, we need to contact with some representative sample of players and conduct some research. Although it can be done in other ways, i recommend this as game designers do with their play testers. Ask them what motivates them, do some psychological tests or whatever you feel like will be good, and always offer them something in return! Their time is valuable and their info too! 
So now we now the goal of our gamified system, the actions that will help us achieve it and the kind of people that will use the platform! I think it's time to start diving into the amazing world of the our last design step: how to create a gamified system using mechanics, aesthetics and stories! But that will be in our next post! 

Don't miss out the exciting end of the "Gamification Design Steps" series! It will lead to a new world of magic and fun!
To be continued....

Victor Manrique
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