When is something not gamification?

The word gamification is often confused with serious games and quite a few companies in the market interchange the terms quite loosely. In my book gamification is the application of game psychology and game elements to a business process such as HR or learning. The key distinction here is that the individual stays in the existing process of learning or HR related tasks, we just add game elements at meaningful touch points to encourage the individual forward and reinforce their great work. A serious game however asks you to step out of a process and into a game. Here you would typically have to launch a game application or game world to step over and play.

In a project we are working on, after all the gamification design has been done and the development is nearly completed, the comment is that it isn’t quite gamified enough and what the people wanted more is actual mini-games. We have a choice to leave the customer feel this way or to explain once more the difference between serious games and gamification. You can have mini-games in a design if you like, but they don’t have to be there to enhance he gamification design.

The gamification design includes narrative and a storyline built around a core learning theme. Every new learning topic starts with a quest mission and each mission completion earns points and has several feedback loops from star rating based on answer scores to some more creative ones based on the story narrative. We built in mechanics that can act as boosters and mission aids as well as some more creative theme and story related feedback items.

So in my view we still delivered a solid gamification design with a lot of good game elements and sound motivational reasons and psychology behind it.

The challenge is expectation management and having reliable partners to not cloud the judgement of the client. the platform provider we are working with, didn’t like the design from day 1 and questioned everything along the way, without ever giving any solutions which could have enhanced anything, only criticism. So we know where the clouded judgement comes from.

The biggest frustration I have with this industry is that a lot of platforms say they can do a lot, but when it actually comes to the acid test of delivery, they fall short or have to hard-code things in (i.e. it doesn’t already work or exist out of the box) which tends to come with price tags both in the shape of complaints as well as financial. Just to be clear, we are not even talking about integrating with legacy or other systems, just strictly design on one platform in the platform itself. I totally appreciate the ones who tell me, look we can do this but not that and who will work with you to deliver something that is valuable to the client.

In our process we have a step were we show the design to the platform or technical suppliers we are working with, before we show the final concept to the client. At that point we expect the feedback and suggestions as to what is possible and what the potential other ways of working around it are. In some instances the technical party accepts this and then as soon as the technical implementation starts, all hell breaks loose. I must say those instances make me loose faith in those providers. Usually there are no surprises in there at that stage, apart from human responses.

When you rely on 2 parties to deliver the quality you want to deliver and you only can fully control or influence one 100%, the playing field becomes trickier. Unfortunately it brings out the ugly side of humanity and basically rattles trust levels to a major extent. It even makes me question the fact whether platforms are even willing to consider the designer and the client perspective. I do my best to put steps in place to make the process fair and transparent, in a few cases I have protected both the client or the platform from each other and I have absorbed the criticism and worked like hell behind the scenes to make a wrong right again. What I am learning that some people will appreciate this and others are so ignorant that they will possibly never see the error of their ways. I am hoping for more of the former and less of the latter.

In the mean time the quest for technical partners that can deliver quality work and work to a process continues…

So when is something a gamification design, well in our view it has a narrative, a theme, game elements at meaningful points to encourage, reward or give feedback the end-users to accomplish the business objective we set out with. It doesn’t have to touch mini-games, but it can if they are helpful.

When would you call something a gamification design?

Leave a comment

Our Solutions