Gamification of websites is a popular trend the past few years, but what it is eludes many people. Simply put, it’s putting elements of playing games into your users experience of the website. Perhaps the most obvious example of which is the like count on Facebook, which is pretty much a score. You play the game by writing posts which people like and share, increasing your score. Whether you know it or not, your mind probably edits as you write on Facebook, instinctively wanting the boost you get from achieving a higher and higher “game” score.
Other ways of Gamifying the user experience is to award medals and titles on achieving certain levels, the way eBay awards you medals as you complete more successful transactions, or untappd, a beer review website where you win “badges” for performing certain actions such as reviewing a range of dark beers, the site will give you a “dark lord” badge, or british beers it’ll give you a “rule brittania” badge (actually I don’t know if those two are real badges on untappd, but if they’re not, they certainly should be).
The idea is that these hooks into peoples competitive streaks make them come back, the need to get that higher score, for more badges than their friends, drives them on. But it’s also a reward situation, where you’re giving people something, which may be completely worthless to tell the truth, but it still hits the part of the brain where they feel rewarded by your website, and therefore enjoyed being there a little more. Finally, theres the feeling of status, by making them a supreme wizard of selling on eBay, or giving them more medals than General Patton on untappd, the user feels important, they feel like the regular crowd look up to them as someone of superior status.
And there’s a lot to be said of this concept, because while we all don’t like to think we can be played as simply, the treatment of our experience as a game and rewarding us does bring us back. And as we interact more with the site, we get rewarded more by the site, which itself is improved by all the interaction that we’re adding to it.
So whats the next step for Gamification? Well personally I think it’ll be the addition of rpg-like levelling up, where as the user earns more points, they get to spend them on improving their status on the site, buying a fancier profile page, more storage, titles, medals and badges to go on their page. So not only do you get their interaction in earning the points, but you also get them interacting as they spend the points. But who knows really.
A personal lesson from Gamifying a site I built in the past is to make the rules set in stone, and automated if entirely possible. I made a site where each week there would be an event, and those I decided completed the event earned points and medals. However the same competitive streak which drives them on to achieve the awards, also drives them to complain and attack each other, and to tell the truth the site pretty much broke down into open warfare, all over some pixels on the screen I was awarding for making the most posts, or posting a photograph of themselves somewhere famous showing the site logo, etc. So if the rules are set in stone, and only a computer decides who gets the awards, then it should stop the worst of the squabbling.
Well, I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and I hope you can think of some interesting ways to help build traffic on your own site by adding some of the reward driven elements of games.