Games are engaging and fun

Updated: Jan 24 2013, 06:48am hrs
If increasing engagement is your goal, gamification is a powerful tool that can help get you there

Mohammed Iqbal & Syed A Suffiyan

It was not until early 2010 that gamification started catching up as a mainstream digital strategy. In 2010, corporations spent $100 million on gamification, and this number is expected to rise up to $2.8 billion by the end of 2016. Tracking the trends in shifting digital strategies will help to understand the importance of gamification and its relevance going forward. Between 1990 and 2004, marketers relied heavily on one-way communication; it was about making claims and telling a story.

Today, digital marketing strategies are based more on engagement and connections. Reviews, likes, ratings and comments have become an integral part of information online and marketers can now view trends in social forums to identify user needs and expectations. This has led to several downsides, as social maturity has caused information overload and network fatigue, resulting in a passive consumer audience. Between July 2009 and June 2011, there has been a large level of decline in contribution and active participation on Facebook.

Marketers now realise the need to transform passive behaviour into a dynamic high-end user engagement and involvement activity. Gamification and its essential dynamics, coupled with social networks, is a very powerful tool to enable multiple levels of engagement.

Human behaviour studies indicate that people need to play. We love the feeling of achieving mastery in a game by overcoming obstacles, learning, gaining skills and earning rewards for our achievements. Playing a game also has aspects of entertainment and escape; it allows us to role-play and be a part of a story. The social aspect of playing increases this fulfillment.

What is it that makes playing games so engaging Every game includes gaming dynamics, some of which are described below:

Positive reinforcements: A reward is a form of positive reinforcement given or received in recompense for actions performed or time invested in the game.

Rewards for users come in the form of points, badges and power-ups. Some points can also be used to buy merchandise and other game- related items.

Risk mitigation: Risk mitigation is any reinforcement that requires a minimum activity to avoid negative occurrences (e.g., Farmville crops that die when a user neglects to water them).

The power of free: This dynamic shows users that they can get something free from someone elses actions (e.g., Groupon).

Goals: A goal is a result or achievement towards which effort is directed. For gamers, goals provide a reason to play and a way to feel progression with a sense of accomplishment.

Avatars: Avatars allow gamers to become immersed into the storyline by embodying themselves into a game character. They allow users to assume a different identity, even through personas like super heroes or super villains.

A behavioural engineering process can be applied through three phases of implementation. The strategy phase focuses on understanding business and brand requirements, as well as critical success factors.

Let us look at some companies that are already putting them to use in some of their products.

Health and fitness: One of the most recent and best-known examples of how gamification is being used in the health and fitness industry is the example of the Nike+ FuelBand. The FuelBand is strapped onto a users wrist and uses LED lights to form a progress meteran indicator of how active the user has been throughout the day. This visual representation of daily activity hits the conscience of the user and innately pushes him or her to achieve a more active day.

Education: Khan Academy has revolutionised the education industry by allowing students to take self-paced classes and evaluate themselves by the number of rewards they earn from each class. A reward in the Khan Academy is a token of achievement for completing the given assignments regularly and correctly.

Food and beverage: Unilevers Share Happy iVend, the worlds first smile-activated vending machine, offers a unique brand experience. The vending machine makes the experience of eating ice cream immersive by using an attractor screen and an interface that challenges the user to smile. The smile-o-meter encourages users to smile more and then allows them to select a free ice cream as a reward.

Gamification is great if done correctly; otherwise, it has its own pitfalls. It should be an added layer as a meaningful motivator around existing content. A game can become shallow when theres not good content to bolster it.

The writers are information architects at SapientNitro