The following is a guest blog post from Christina Smith, a content & client marketing specialist with a focus on social media at YourMembership.com. She believes in a creative approach to problem solving and hates the words “we’ve always done it this way” used in that order.
Christina will serve as our very first guest blogger on this site and has gained the trust and respect of all of us at Digitec through her devotion to the association community and passion for gamification. Welcome Christina!
“It’s all fun and games until….” but with gamification, there is no until. Implementing gamification in your community or business allows participants to enjoy themselves while they perform (what you have deemed) desired actions through a system of public rewards. Gamification is not about video games; it’s not even about technology. Some groups have been hesitant to embrace it because they’re awaiting proof it works. The secret to gamification is that it’s been working for years.
Gamification is not a new concept. The military and groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have been using principles of motivational theory for decades. A set of skills is presented as the next learning objective, skills are mastered, a badge is awarded and displayed prominently. After the acquisition of several badges/skill sets, the individual levels up and, generally, receives a new title for his/her accomplishments.
How to Make Gamification Work for You
Now that you know the motivation and drive behind gamification’s wide appeal, it’s obvious that gamification, game theory, and motivation have little to do with technology. Technology is simply the vehicle to get you there. We have a 21st century bias that when we hear “game” we think electronic, thus the tendency to associate gamification with video games. If you write off gamification because your community is not interested in video games, you’re doing your organization a disservice.
Like any advanced initiative, making the most of gamification means taking some time to plan and think strategically. Begin your gamification initiative by asking:
1. What kind of community am I bringing together?
Is it already established? If not, what are you hoping to achieve with its establishment. If it already exists, why does it exist? What are the members of this community looking for? Capture this in the most basic of terms. They’re looking for a job; they are looking to learn; etc.
2. What are the personality/demographics of the community members?
How old are they? Where do they spend most of their time? What are their technology preferences, if any?
3. What are my organization’s goals in implementing gamification?
What’s important to you? What do you want to accomplish with gamification? What activity or sets of activities do you want drive?
4. How will we reward participants?
Easy to implement gamification programs tie activity in with points. Points accumulate. After so many points a new level is achieved. A reward is given; sometimes in the form of a material badge, sometimes a virtual one. But you don’t have to stop there. You can bundle activities together to create a “course.” Take 3-5 of the activities you achieve points with and give it a clever name. This means participants will not only feel the accomplishment of achieving each activity individually but when achieved together, they will be further lauded. This may encourage participating in an activity they previously might not have thought to do. A good course of action is to tie in a popular activity with a not so popular activity.
5. How can I reach everyone?
Just as high school is made up of more than the librarian and the jock, so is your community. You have those who contribute constantly and those who remain in the shadows. Both are equally committed to your organization/community so please remember your lurkers. It’s believed that as many as 90% of your website visitors are never going to contribute content. They lurk and absorb everything you publish. They are as essential to your community as the content contributors. Make sure if you are gamifying an online community that you keep this in mind and assign points to activities that do not involve written contributions. You can give points for reading, for voting content up, for social sharing, etc.
6. What about game theory?
In order for your gamification program to be successful, you must understand a basic game theory commandment. Challenge without exhaustion. If your levels are too hard to achieve, it won’t be fun. If it’s not fun, people won’t do it. An easy way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to make your first level easily attainable. Offer it for something that only takes 1-2 steps and they are doing it anyway. If you’re online, signing in might be a good activity to reward. Add another activity and allow them to reach the first level. As your levels increase, so should the difficulty with which to achieve it.
7. What is the organizational culture like?
Ensure your culture supports it. Gamification is about rewards. If your organization’s culture does not promote rewarding behavior, gamification may be hard to embrace. Make sure you have buy-in as gamification is much easier to implement within a culture which issues, and thrives on, praise.
Curiosity, drive and satisfaction in a job well done, motivate all generations and people of varied backgrounds. Implementing a program that appeals to these base instincts doesn’t have to be complicated or hard if you keep the basics in mind and encourage playful participation.
If you’d like to learn about game based learning from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.
Looking for a gamified LMS? Visit our LMS page to learn more about the Knowledge Direct Learning Management System.
Ready to find out what Digitec can do for you?