miércoles, 25 de septiembre de 2013

The Future of Gamification: From Behaviour Management to Functional Games

Why Gamification will be an intermediate step to functional games

Bullet points

- Gamification is a behaviour management technique to increase people's motivation towards a well-intentioned purpose

- The only way to motivate Generation Y is to play by their rules

- Gamification as we know it today is just an intermediate step to functional games

- Functional games have a greater purpose rather than entertaining

- The main areas of gamification in the future will be education, social good, health, research and business

From Behaviour Management to Functional Games

Gamification as a broad term

"It's not about game elements, it's about how human motivation works"

Gamification has been around us for a while, and there isn't a main definition we all agree with yet, and the reason for that is very simple: It's impossible to define gamification just as a set of game mechanics we can apply to non-gaming contexts, because the term is way broader.

Since the beginning, the term gamification has been really criticised just because it's been understood as a term to define very basic business strategies like points, badges and leaderboards to make people buy more, or in other words, a new marketing tool to modify people's behaviour using game-like elements.  Obviously, that's a wrong approach and trying to constrain gamification to those limits means leaving a great part behind.

If we think about it, the word gamification was adopted because games were the first ones in discovering and understanding better how human motivation worked, and I think that's the very key point. Because what we are discussing here it's not all about those game elements, it's about how human motivation works, about how we act, behave, and learn in our life.

Gamification is neither a game, nor just some bunch of game mechanics, it's a behavior management technique to increase people's motivation towards a well-intentioned purpose.

So that's why Serious Games, Alternative Reality Games (ARG's), social media games, business gamification or any other kind of technique that increases people's motivation towards an ethical purpose can be classified as gamification.

Gamification together is stronger

Gamification is here to stay

Generation Y has changed everything. It is a fact that things evolve with new generations but millennials and specially the ones after them have grown up with a totally different mindset. Their world is one with computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and full of video games since they were kids. And what does it mean?

Well, the most important thing is that their learning processes were different. Learning is at the heart of many of the actions that we take every day, and it is a critical issue nowadays because any kind of behaviour that we are going to try to improve requires a great dose of teaching. But what if the rules of learning have changed?

Technology has made everything simpler, faster and more social while video games got them used to immediate feedback and compelling learning curves. Besides, fun made it all more interesting. So when we take all these elements and mix them, it's pretty clear that in order to keep on motivating this kind of generations we need to play by their rules.

Playing by their own rules

Functional Games, ARGs and Serious Games

So far, it is clear that gamification is more than some game elements and that is here to stay, even though it has some great challenges to overcome as Isidro Rodriguez (@isidrorodrigo) states in  this fantastic article.
Besides, in order to increase new generation's motivation, we need to play by their own rules, and that means gamification.
But... Is gamification going to remain on this level or is there something else coming ahead? Maybe something that takes the best of real-virtual environments and gamification to achieve greater goals?

And the answer to that is what I have called Functional Games.

The term functional games refers to the function that these games have, it means as we said before, that games and in special video games, will have a greater function rather than purely being a way of entertainment. It means that in the future, games will be a way of teaching people while contributing to improve our society thanks to their function-focused design.

This is not something completely new, and it has to be said that some Serious Games and Alternative Reality Games have already adopted at some point, this kind of concept. Just to mention some of the most famous ones: The Free Rice Game, SuperBetter, Foldit, World Without Oil, etc.

But to really understand this term, we need to define what an ARG or Serious Game is, and compare them with functional games. So how to define an Alternative Reality Game and a Serious Game?

An alternative reality game is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions. On the other hand, a serious game is the one which main goal is to teach or train, often by realistically simulating some aspect of a world system.

Games and purposes? It's not that far

Defining Functional Games

a) Functional Games are 100% game-like. They are designed as if their main objective was to create entertainment but with one or more functions, purposes, goals, or objectives rather than just fun. In that way, they combine the best characteristics of both normal games and ARGs & Serious Games. This is a particularly interesting topic and Andrzej Marczewski (@daverage) has a great article on Serious Games nowadays that I recommend. You can read it here 

b) Functional Games are long-term experiences that last in time. Many serious games or ARGs are over whenever their main objective has been achieved, but functional games are thought to be a never-ending experience or at least quite long. In order to do so, we have to implement some of gamification/games best engaging techniques. Regarding this topic, I have an article on the main factors to create long-term experiences that you can read here.

c) Functional Games are mainly designed to be social. Many video games are meant to be played solo but social factors add many more possibilities and many ARGs or Serious Games designers have perfectly grasped this by turning the gameplay experience into a totally social one. Whether its social aspect is implicit (games with small social features that are played among very few players that comment their progress) or explicit (fully social games), functional games are designed to be shared in a collaborative or competitive way.

Functional Games? Almost there!

Some final words on it

The concept of functional games has been on my mind for some months already, but it still is a very basic approach. It requires way more research and discussion on it, so any comments or thoughts on it are well received. At this very moment, ARGs and Serious Games are still very young, and gamification is even younger but we can already see that many of these experiences have taken a "functional game" approach that is being highly successful. However and thinking of the present, the main obstacle in reaching functional games still lies on us.

So whenever we understand that gamification and Serious Games/ARGs are not that different and that we can the best of both to create more powerful experiences, then we'll be able to move on and start creating functional games that will revolutionise the future of education, business, social good, health, and research. 

Victor Manrique

viernes, 13 de septiembre de 2013

Why Badges fail in Gamification: Unraveling the mystery

4 strategies to make badges work in a gamified system

Why do badges fail in many gamified systems? Are they really that bad? Can we find a way for them to be useful in gamification?

If there is something game designers and pure gamifiers would agree with, is that PBLs alone in a system (points, badges and leaderboards) are totally useless as they need to go with many other game mechanics. 

But even though points and leaderboards have been accepted by the gamification community as great elements if designed well, badges remain as one of the most criticised elements, and if we think about it, there is no wonder why; poorly designed badges are always leading to zero results because in the end, it's not about the badge but the achievement involved and its context. 
As Andrzej Marczewski (@daverage) states too (see one of his posts about Badges here) badges are just some pixels on a screen that mean nothing without a context.

However, achievements and the badges that come with them, have been successfully implemented and used not only in many best selling games, but also in the Army, the scouts, many airlines' loyalty programs and so forth, so there must be something there that is not being done properly for badges to fail.

So... is there a way to take the best of those experiences and apply it to gamification? And even more important, how can we make badges work in a gamified system? 

It's all about the achievement

This is one of the most important things that we should never forget; a badge itself means nothing without the achievement it involves. People don't just get badges, they achieve objectives within a context, and there is where we should put all the focus. If we think about it, an objective is nothing more than a small step towards a bigger goal, so we have to make them VIP (valuable, interesting and possible). 
To sum it all up in a brief way, remember to make the actions you want players to take fun and nice to achieve, give those objectives and the actions involved some kind of intrinsic or extrinsic reward, and last but not least, make them seem possible in time. 
If you want to know more about VIP goals, check my post on the 5 key factors for long term engagement with gamification here

A great example of this achievements and badge system is the game Day of Defeat Source.

Aesthetics are also important

Badges are all about the objective behind them but we should not forget about the aesthetics. We all know how powerful a great design can be (what would Apple be without design?) and when it comes to badges, this is also important. So with badges, we must focus on 4 design elements: shape, iconography, groups and colors. 
Badges are made with a shape, color and an iconography, and those ones should be related to the theme and the message we want to communicate, so if we are creating a western-based adventure, why not making badges look like sheriff stars or guns, horses, etc. Besides, it is always good to put them together within difficulty groups with different colors, so their meaning will be stronger, as if badges were MMORPG elite items.

A nice example of it can be seen at foursquare. 

Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn

We usually hear that games are so powerful because of their learning process, and the same can be applied to any badges system. But why do I say this? 
Well, badges are almost always the kind of mechanic that is only increasing and never getting less which means that we are only allowed to win new badges, but never lose them. However, we have to remember that the main mission of badges is to reinforce behaviors and as long as badges cannot be lost, once they are achieved they are no longer reinforcing anything since the objective has already been accomplished.
So it's a great idea to evaluate the possibility of designing badges that can be both won and lost. When doing this, we are achieving two things: increasing loss & avoidance feelings (for more information about loss avoidance, check Yu-kai Chou's post on it here) while reinforcing the player's motivation in time to keep on taking those actions.
Last but not least, it has to be said that with this point we are primarily changing the characteristics of the system's achievements, turning them into non-temporary goals but we still need some small VIP ones. That's why the optimal solution is to implement both types of badges in our gamified platform. 

It's true that this idea of dynamic badges hasn't been put into practice that much up until now, but the concept is the same one as other similar game systems such as limited resource pools or time constrains for quests.

Make them social and maximize efficiency through status

One of the key factors why badges work in the army or with scouts is that everyone can see each others badges or their position in the ranking according to those. So if you see the captain, or your scout leader, their badges are just there, available for everyone to see and recognise them.
And the good point about it is that this idea can be easily applied to any gamified platform whether it is done in a real or virtual environment. 
So just let your players see how many badges their rivals have, what kind of achievements they have achieved, and what we have to do to be like them. 
This is specially effective in any kind of enterprise gamification platform, but it can also be applied to more collaborative experiences by creating group badges. 

Some good examples can be found in many MMORPGs that show guild achievements or players items/badges.

At the end of the day, badges are just another way that to reinforce user's key behaviors and they should be designed thinking of that. Neither they are the only and most effective way to do so, nor they should be. So always keep in mind that badges are not effective on their own and there must be many other elements involved for them to work properly. 

Victor Manrique

miércoles, 4 de septiembre de 2013

Gamification Hangout with Gabe Zichermann & Epic Win Blog Community

Gabe Zichermann talks about Gamification on Epic Win Blog

What are Gabe Zichermann (@gzicherm), Andrzej Marczewski (@daverage), Roman Rackwitz (@RomanRackwitz), Daniel Meusburger (@dmeusburger) and Marta García (@martapolavieja) doing together on Google Hangouts?

You'll have to see the video to know that! Dont't miss out this great gamification hangout where they all participated! 

Some words about them...

  • Gabe Zichermann: Gabe is the chair of GSummit where top gamification experts across industries gather to share knowledge and insight about customer & employee engagement and loyalty. He is also an author, highly rated public speaker and entrepreneur whose next book, The Gamification Revolution (McGraw Hill, 2013) looks at how leaders are leveraging gamification strategy to crush the competition. His previous books, Gamification by Design (2011) and Game-Based Marketing (2010) have helped define the industry’s standards and frameworks, and continue to be key reference materials today. Gabe resides in New York City, where he is co-director of startup accelerator The Founder Institute, and a board member of StartOut.org.

  • Andrzej Marczewski: Andrzej is the #3 gamification guru worlwide and a fantastic speaker, author of a book (that we recommend on Epic Win Blog) and blogger on http://marczewski.me.uk. Besides, he is a web designer since 2000, now working as the Intranet Webmaster at Capgemini UK. He is located in the UK.

  • Roman Rackwitz: Roman is the #7 gamification guru worldwide and CEO & Founder of Engaginglab. Besides, he is the chair of a new gamification event called GamifyConference. He is located in Germany.

  • Daniel Meusburger: Daniel is a gamification researcher that has worked as an intern at SAP and has a great understanding of the gamification world. He is located in Austria at the moment. 

  • Marta G. Polavieja: Marta is a gamification designer at Cookie Box, a spanish gamification consultancy and an expert not only in this gamification world but also social media, transmedia, story telling and much more. She is located in Madrid, Spain. 


Victor Manrique