Gamification in its theoretical definition is the application of game thinking and its design elements in non-game contexts such as businesses, education, lifestyle, etc. On a deeper level it is motivational design cautiously crafted to sustain and engage individuals over a long period of time. We have seen Points, Badges, Levels in the market space before gamification came into existence—in the form of loyalty programs—but in long run they weren’t as successful as expected since “players” sooner or later lost interest and therefore, lost engagement with the program. With the intervention of gamification came the idea of providing the thinking of “Epic Meaning” and as described by Yu-Kai Chou. Epic Meaning is feeling connected by performing actions that are beyond an individual’s personal welfare, where the player feels an additional sense of responsibility towards community.
Gamification is a repetitive circle of: motivation -> action -> feedback -> motivation. The motivation to do something leads to performance of an action. With the performance the feedback is accompanied and depending upon the type of feedback the motivation and actions are adjusted for the next cycle. The critical point in this cycle is the feedback, the feedback must be clear, immediate and showing precisely the next steps to be taken. The need for immediate feedback has been emphasized in the literature and practical applications of gamification again and again. The enterprise application of gamification catering the need of immediate feedback led to the development of software and applications which provide real-time feedback, this in turn led to revolutionizing business, as in the last decade the feedback was generally a yearly occurrence when the appraisals were done, and it was not beneficial for an employee nor employer to give feedback for a project complete 10 months ago.
When it comes to using gamification for social good, like in rural or urban slums of India, the feedback—which I think is the critical part of learning and engaging process for successful gamification strategy—can be a matter of concern since reaching each and every player of rural India for feedback delivery is not easy; they are not well connected with modern technologies like Internet. If an organization like an N.G.O or a social entrepreneur who would like to implement some program which is similar to crowd souring i.e. the end state will be developed by the people for the people, the path that should be followed is laid out by those N.G.O.s or individuals. How can we effectively provide feedback to such communities which is quick enough that it is received by the player while they are still engaged in the real-word game, and therefore less likely to lose motivation?
In my opinion there are quite a few options which can be effectively used for delivering successful feedback to such communities. A majority of these households have mobile connections to carry out their business, though their mobile may not be a high-end phones where applications can be installed and with GPRS/3G connections, immediate feedback can still be given but a 160 character SMS (short message service) can be delivered. SMS is the fastest communication that can reach individual players. The main issue which arises is: how can we unite individual players to form larger community engagement? How can epic meaning be established within the community. After a long discussion with Yu-Kai Chou, I have 3 solutions to this problem. Firstly the use of posters and advertisements (hoardings). We can use them as a progress bars with progress being displayed and updated frequently. They can demonstrate the level of completion of the project which the society is engaged in. Second is the use of the N.G.O. volunteers for word-of-mouth feedback. While travelling in such communities the volunteers of N.G.O’s should carry data of player and society and while interacting with the players they provide the feedback, e.g. the level the player has reached and the road ahead. Thirdly and lastly is the use of the print media. Partnering with the media to customize that selected area newspaper publisher and a very small completion bar can be incorporated in one of the corners of the newspaper. If the deal is wittily made the newspaper may be willing to offer it free of cost, as by the act itself the newspaper will be getting publicity (marketing) and more business by attaching itself to a noble cause.
These are just a few possible strategies to provide feedback in the rural or urban slum of India. There can be many more channels which can be used. It is up to the designer of the gamification strategy which mode to use for providing a quick feedback to the players.
Thanks to Arvin for helping me in editing this blog.