Over the last few years, there's been a trend with gamification to add points badges levels or leaderboards, as a way to gamify a product. This has become known as the gamification blueprint and it relies heavily on rewards and competition to motivate players.
These elements are fairly easy to add to existing systems. You simply need a way of identifying a particular behaviour that you want to encourage and then you can reward users when they complete it with points or a badge.
However, if we’re focusing too much on rewards to gamify our systems, then we may run into some trouble. This is because there is a lot more to good gamification than just points, badges and leaderboards.
When we focus on just using rewards to encourage users we're relying on using "Extrinsic Motivation”. We're extrinsically motivated when we perform an activity in order to attain a desired outcome, or to avoid a negative one. Think carrot and stick. This kind of motivation can work incredibly well to motivate us in some contexts.
However, research suggests that the value of rewards diminish over time. So a bigger and bigger reward is needed to keep us motivated. Research also suggests that once the reward is removed we're less inclined to continue the activity. Extrinsic motivation also doesn't really explain why we play video games. Yes rewards are a big part of games but they're generally not the primary reason we play games.
There is another type of motivation that helps explain why games are so engaging called "Intrinsic Motivation”. If you're intrinsically motivated then you’re motivated not because you want a reward or you're avoiding punishment, you're doing it because you find enjoyment in the activity itself. When it comes to games generally no one pays you to play games or punishes you when you don't play them. You're playing them because you enjoy the game itself. So if this is the reason games are so motivating, then rather than just focusing on rewards when it comes to gamification, it's important to consider how two make gamification intrinsically motivating.
There's a number of ways to better support intrinsic motivation in games and gamification. One way is to look at three basic psychological needs proposed in self-determination theory and promote these through game mechanics. These needs include autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Autonomy refers to the choices people make and why they make them. Autonomy is high when we choose to take on an activity, because we are interested in it, rather than doing it because of a reward or punishment.
Competence refers to the ability to be challenged appropriately. This generally happens when we are given a challenge that matches our skill level, something that is not too easy that it becomes boring and not too difficult that we become anxious.
Relatedness refers to our connection to and support from others. It has to do with our development and maintenance of close personal relationships.
Research suggests that games are primarily enjoyable and motivating, to the extent that player's experience these three psychological needs while playing. So supporting them in gamification design is important to do.
We can't talk about intrinsic motivation in games without also discussing the "Theory of Flow". Flow describes a state of full immersion. When you're concentrating so intently on an activity then you're said to be in a state of flow.
And flow has been witnessed in people who rock climb, dance, play chess, and also those who play video games. When you're in a state of flow you often experience many things, such as an intense and focused concentration. A sense of great control over the activity you are undertaking. And also a distortion of time often occurs. You may have experienced a flow state if you've ever sat down to read a book or play a game for just five minutes and then when you looked up, 4 hours had passed and you hadn't realised it.
In order to reach or encourage the state of flow, you generally need to have the following:
- A clear goal that you're working towards.
- Clear progress towards completing that goal.
- Clear and immediate feedback to tell you how you're going.
- And a balance of challenge and skill.
Supporting these things can help promote intrinsic motivation.
So we know video games are popular, but what exactly is a video game. Well, to understand that, let's look at what a basic game consists of.
In most games we have four things:
1. Goals, which gives us something to aim towards or to complete.
2. Rules, which describe the ways we can achieve the goal.
3. Challenge/Conflict which arises from the unique combination of goals and rules.
4. Feedback, to tell us how well we're doing or how close we are to completing the goal.
The important thing to note is that games create a challenge by adding rules. For example, the game of golf would be easier if you could just pick up the ball and put it in the hole. But by adding rules such as only being allowed to use a golf club, the challenge increases and this helps to make the game of golf more interesting.
When it comes to games. We generally like different types of video games to other people and this is the same with gamification. Some of us prefer games with rich stories. Some of us like competition. Others like exploring fantasy worlds and others like simulation games. Some of us don’t even like video games and would prefer to play board games or even sport. One size doesn't fit all. And this is really important to consider when it comes to designing effective gamification. You need to think about who your player is and what kind of games they like to play. Gamification can be useful in some contexts and in others not so much. Gamification isn't a silver bullet. It has to be designed carefully to make sure it suits your business and audience goals.
Gamification is primarily useful when you want to increase motivation and engagement. This could be encouraging people to exercise more or engage with a marketing campaign. The nice thing about gamification is that because it deals with motivation, it's applicable to many different fields.
So, what does the future of gamification hold? I believe we'll start to see more full fledged serious games like the ones that Gamify make. Beyond this, new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality are going to open up interesting ways in which to engage motivate and train people.
The area of gamification is still in its infancy, but it's developing quickly. As video games continue to grow in popularity. Gamification holds a lot of potential to engage people all over the world.
We hope you enjoyed the video series. If you have any questions or want to know more, get in touch with Gamify. Thanks for your time!
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