Category Archives: Gamification Strategy

Strategic points to consider for gamificaiton design.

Pacing of the ‘share’ feature in your gamification strategy

While playing an online game, especially considering Facebook, we see, share with friends option recurring frequently. In this post I would like to discuss about the right interval of pacing a share pop-up.imagesTo begin with, we need to think about why we need to use a share feature, primarily because of these reasons

  • Build audience
  • Viral marketing
  • to get more page hits etc.

While designing for the share feature in your gamification module you must first think about the player who will be sharing. You should ask yourself what is the need to share that this player will be willing to share the content voluntarily, is it the player is getting some 100 bonus points for each share, or there is an accomplishment that the player has achieved and the player thinks that it will be a meaningful thing to share among friends.

If you agree with the latter part you are thinking right, there is no ah ha moment when sharing just for points, it is a forced thing on the player which the player will not enjoy at all. But what if the player has a milestone unlocked, or just made an awesome score, in this case most of the players will be more than willing to share their score on the platform so that they can be praised. Getting praised by others is a powerful gamification mechanic. Sharing of a meaningful activity like “I just earned a badge learning R” will make the social group of the player more interested and curious (drive 7 of octalysis framework) to check the platform that is helping the current player in improving skills which are desired by other players as well . If you provide a meaningful sharing opportunity players will be willing to click that button actively.

Another point to be noted here is, sharing can be of two types random or selective. If you are having a generic product which anyone can use, or will like to check out then the design having a generic share is not a problem. But if the product is highly customized and you feel that only selective audience needs to be attracted, you should also see this from the player perspective. If you empower the player for selectively sharing, and also rewarding the player for sharing with target audience that will actually engage, the player will also experience the drive of social influence & relatedness (drive 5 of octalysis framework) when known user group is actively using the product, and hence driving a long term engagement.



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Gamification Psychology toolkit #2: Pleasure in Self-creation

Ian-Edwards-Creation-of-Self-thumbHave you ever wondered why a self-made not so delicious food tastes tastier than a meal from the restaurant? Or why you like a custom made shoe color design no matter how odd the combination may be, if you were the selector of those colors? The answer lies in the power of Self Creation, Dan Airely call it as an Ikea Effect. We as humans have an imbedded mechanic to give more value to things that we have created, or have invested time in it. Perfection weighs less, and no matter how imperfect your work is you will prefer it, maybe not explicitly but deep down internally, if you get a chance to up vote among a few, you will favor yours.

Working inside a game, where you develop your own virtual world, you will find your guild and your possessions to be dearer to you than to any other outsider. Games use this mechanic very carefully, hence harness a longer engagement from the players, as leaving what you have created, with your precious time is not easy psychologically.

Another example will be the hours you spent on your farm, in FarmVille, growing it. Even if you have a sudden realization of its no realistic value, but it is eating more and more of your time as your farm grows larger and larger you are unable to stop playing it, because you value your creation and hence want to enjoy it and feel complacent with it.

Using the psychology of Self-creation as a mechanic in your gamification design, can be a very powerful ingredient for increasing the engagement. The design should be such that the players feel a sense of self-creation among the activities they are doing. May be the design should provide hints, but to the player it should look like that the actual work was done by the player and not guided by the system where the player is just a viewer. The more the player is able to create the more valuable the creation will become and hence the intrinsic motivation of feeling proud will work for a long term engagement.



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Gamification Psychology toolkit #1: Power of Reciprocity

CaptureOften times while passing through a street you will come across people, who will do you a favor like giving you an unexpected gift, and no matter how much you resist it,  they will not take it back; on contract they will provide you an option for another favor in return like a small donation so that you can repay them. Or there will be another form of it, you will be able to easily recall instances when your class teacher throws very hard homework for your summer holidays , and then there is a lot of crying in the class, “No, Mam, this is too much”, the teacher then instantaneously throws another option which you all agree, as it is less hectic. In reality this second option was the real homework that the teacher wanted you all to do, but to break your resistance for not doing the homework she used a reciprocation-concession strategy. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, gives many more similar examples of this which we encounter in our daily lives.

In games, like in many MMORPGs, you will see a pro player often gifting you some special tricks or powers to help you move forward in the game, so rather than leaving the game no matter how boring you are you stick around the game under the pro for some time; as you will be thinking that the person has given his/her personal time helping me level-up, it will be rude if I just stop playing, hence I should continue for a while. This is a clear case of the trap of reciprocity.

A good gamification designer who wants to increase engagement, should harness on this basic human nature to reciprocate, while designing for users who are less likely to adopt easily. If they get a meaningful gift within a system, which helps the newbie in an easy on-boarding, they will be compelled to give back internally for the effort the other player has put in helping the new player to survive the initial few days and hence increasing the adoption of your gamification design.

The reciprocity is not only limited to a new and pro relation, but can be a powerful mechanic at any level for increasing engagement. Even gifting between a pro -pro game increase the time they spend on the system, alone, when compared when they interact under the reciprocity condition.

The best part of reciprocity, is you are not enforcing as a sticky PBL, but harnessing on the innate human desire to give back to those who have helped you, thereby reducing your chances of developing a poor gamification design.



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A case of intermittent pleasure for your gamification design

CaptureDan Ariely, in his book “the upside of irrationality” talks about case of pleasure. He argues we as human beings are capable to adapt to pleasure, and hence we do not enjoy subsequent pleasure as much as we enjoyed at the first touch point. As you can see in the figure above, the pleasure or happiness declines considerably over time, if you purchase all the goods at one point (blue dashed curve). On the other hand if you purchase in parts, then by the time you get adaptable to pleasure from the previous purchase, the next purchase gives a kick to your happiness / pleasure experience (red curve), and hence in nutshell the area covered or the happiness/pleasure experienced over time is much more than compared to the one time shopping.

Relating this to Gamification, an engaged user who is rapidly coming back to your website or using your product, given that your gamification design runs on the trap of PBL’s, then following the concept of the hedonic treadmill (supposed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes; wiki) the player will lose the interest. There will come a point when reaching a new level will not give the same happiness that gave on the previous one, some what like diminishing returns.

For e.g. you run a website, and have incorporated a PBL platform to motivate the user for sharing and engaging with your content. As the user moves up your leaderboard and gets more and more surfeit with your content his/her engagement will decline. Think that this player is now the top player on your site, there is nothing more to accomplish, than unlocking a few more levels, he/she will feel bored, and look for other places to derive pleasure.

Rather than giving points in a non surprising ladder fashion, if the design is made such that the elements of curiosity and surprise are embedded, which keeps the player thinking and guessing what surprise is stored next; will keep the players’  pleasure curve high, thereby ensuring that the player stays much longer engaged with your system. Give the player few accomplishments, then wait till the engagement gets low, then push a booster package to kick back the pleasure curve.



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Confession of my engagement with a gamification platform: from fun to gaming within the rules

 taking_gamification_to_the_next_b2b_levelTo drive user behavior two of the best gamification blogs and many others use a gamification platform offered by BeatUp (name changed for anonymity). Posts have been written by the owners’ of blogs on why they use a gamification platform, but I am writing this post from a player perspective, who actually competes in the rankings.

The first stage of onboarding was fun. As soon I permitted the platform, to use one of my social network it gave me a meaningful booster and welcomed me to the setup. It showed that I have taken the initial step towards desired learning which was to know more about gamification. During the newbie days of my visit to the blogs and interacting with the platform, I was some 200 or more rank below than the top player, i.e. top player might be having 1,500,000+ points, and I was having some 400+ points. But each point addition that I was having, was a meaningful addition to my score, as the points and badges were not for free but with gamification post/video/comment that I interacted with.

Slowly, I started to enjoy the system, and started to compete in small badge/point achievement missions, like to watch 10 videos back to back. So, ordinarily I may stop after 5 or 6, but since I was learning, and the badge progress bar showed me that I can get a badge for watching 4 more, I stayed glued to the system. Doing this I was gaining new gamification knowledge and on the other hand I was climbing up the leaderboard, which in my view point, showed other players that I am a regular visitor to the site (Game technique of Envy), and I am very active as well. Staying on top for a day was fun initially, then staying on top of the board for a week showed my achievement to others, all was good till this stage, I was playing fair till now and making progress gaining gamification content.

The game turned bad now, the moderator of the blogs linked the ranking to some meaningful reward hoping for increasing activity, at this point fun became obsession, and weekly top ranking was no more engaging monthly was needed, but all-time top spot was what I wanted. The new materials started to dry up, as I had no new activity to do, and still I was way behind the number one player. So, I dived in figuring out how the system actually gives points/badges, can it be gamed. And to my luck it was possible. I learnt for example by giving 50 unique visit to the site, I will get 10,000 points, so I simply opened 50 tabs and opened the website 50 times in 10 minutes, and boom 10,000 points or write 10 comments and get 5,000 points so I checked that whether writing random comment like “qweqw ere qew” is counted, and it did, so boom 10 random comments I got another 5,000 points and in no matter of time, I learned all the rules and became number one player, or atleast top 10 before I stopped playing across various sites.

Though I have stopped doing it now, but by this post, I hope the gamification platform designers will learn something and prevent further exploitation of their platform or do not make activities contingent upon points which promote players to do the same things that I did.


Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Strategy


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Why onboarding of client in Gamification conceptualization stage a must do thing.

imagesAs a gamification consultant,  I have been working with clients for more than a year now. Started in October 2012, the journey has been a great learning experience for me. Though, I was adept with gamification knowledge, but the practical knowledge of designing and implementing a gamification design came with the projects that I did. A critical learning was, it is always beneficial to onboard the client, whom you are consulting in your gamification conceptualization  phase. Onboarding may not be of all the people in the client organization–as explaining to each member can take a large chunk of your valuable time– even a single person who understands the clients business will serve the purpose.

When a client brings the project, generally we understand their business and work on the contracted work. Since, gamification is a very new phenomenon, and the clients to whom I talk to, they have a very superficial understanding of the process. They understand PBLs (Points, Badges and Leaderboards) as a magic pill which will bring business to them, as soon as they are implemented. This superficial understanding of gamification leads to an improper transfer of the concept to the client if he/she is not involved, and it becomes disastrous even leading to failure of your hard worked gamification design.

If you take the client with you in the conceptual journey, before executing your design, it will help the client to understand that it is not just a simple implementation of PBLs, but there is a meaning attached to the points or badges which are awarded for some meaningful activity. The flow that you experience as a gamification consultant while designing the gamification system for the client, needs to be felt by the client as well. It also helps the client to understand, why a particular number of points are needed on a certain activity while others activities demand different points. In addition onboarding of the client helps in the communication phase, as the person from the clients’ organization whom you took in this journey, better understands the internal communication jargons, hence you can leverage on his/her skills to make more meaningful communication with other members of the client organization.

Finally, it makes your final presentation to the client more meaningful; every now and then I come across clients that are more interested in the visual part of the gamification, i.e. how the badges will look like or how the leaderboard will function. I strongly feel, there is still a lot of conceptual misunderstanding, which acts as a hinderance between you and the client to communicate effectively, and it can only be removed when the client is working with you. Then only they will understand the nuances of a gamification design and not limit themselves to trivial stuff in the conceptualization phase of gamification.


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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Gamification, Gamification Strategy


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The 8 questions about players that needs to be answered: How to gamify for ‘the relevant ones’?

While designing a gamification system or more appropriately as I would say, designing motivation using game mechanics, the center stage is taken by the player. Player – the individual for whom the gamification system is designed to keep him/her hooked to your service/company/offering. This makes the player the vertex of the gamification strategy. For example, lets consider a marketing gamification strategy that is being developed for a global product. The players in such a category are so diverse that creating a gamification strategy keeping each and every player of your product into consideration set will be very difficult. It is almost impossible to develop such a gamified system that is engaging for all type of players. What may be fun and engaging for one set of player may not be so for the other set. 
As a solution to this problem, the gamification strategist working at your organization must realize the limitations and design the strategy keeping in mind the players that really matter. Gamification is about change: in the player’s behavior, their actions or way of thinking. A successful gamification strategy will encompass focused changes as mass or general changes are not feasible via gamification. Else it will be contributing to the pool of 80% failed applications as estimated by Gartner few years down the line.
So what it is about the relevant players that should be kept in mind while writing the stories? I will help you in this by putting them in 8 easy questions that the gamification strategist of your organization needs to answer before planning the engagement tools to be used.
Q1. Who do we want your players to be? [It is possible that your product caters to varied demographics, so for whom is this gamification strategy for? Is it for the least engaged or the most engaged.]

  • Q1 is the most important step; once it is answered precisely, rest of the following questions become quite easier to answer.

Q2. What does the player already thinks of your product (i.e. how informed the player is)?
Q3. What is the player skeptical of?
Q4. What are the players needs, demands and wants?
Q5. What is the most engaging media to reach the player? What are the touch points where the player can be connected easily?
Q6. What about the player can be changed easily and what will require a persistent effort via your gamified strategy?
Q7. Where has your offering touched the player in the past?
Q8. After the player has successfully engaged, how will the player interact with his/her fellow players?
Once you have answers to these questions go and gamify the players by using appropriate engagement tools, but remember do not crop and photoshop your game to accommodate more players, try to appreciate the fact that gamification has its limitations. One size doesn’t fit all.


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