The process of gamification is based on the integration of typical game components into websites, online communities, content portals or business services and, in general, others non-gaming contexts.
But what kind of techniques is needed to obtain the desired results?
There are two different aspects to be considered during the gamification process: they are called game-mechanics and game-dynamics; the former are the tools needed to create the gamification infrastructure that lies under any game, the latter represent the human needs and desires that are inherently in everyone of us and can be satisfied taking advantage of game-mechanics.
Game-mechanics are evolving in the latest years, advancing with the recent innovations in the game design discipline. The core of this discipline, however, is composed by very simple concepts, that work together to assure to the user/player a compelling experience, that boost his interest, driving his participation and engagement.
The basic game-mechanics are points, levels, challenges, virtual goods and leaderboards.
Every single game-mechanic is tightly tied and fulfills a different game-dynamic, but influence also others in a minor way. The game-dynamics involved in gamification are reward, status, achievement, self expression and competition.
We’re going to explore in detail every mechanic, associated with its main direct dynamic.
- Points/Credits – Reward: the act of collecting points is very powerful because can motivate the users. Even if there’s not a really value associated with them, people keep collecting points that can also be split into various categories with the purpose of driving different actions or behaviors. Points can be exchanged with many kinds of rewards that provide to users the feeling of investing well their time and energy, with the sense of earning something. Points and credits are also the intermediate step that enables challenges, leaderboards and the obtaining of virtual goods.
- Levels – Status: levels represent a segmentation of the user base and reflect many real world contexts: social, work and business environments often are based on different hierarchical classes. The levels system provide milestones to reach that can the shared and highlighted in the status of the user. The structure can be based on points that everyone gains to level up, granting the access to new contents and possibilities.
- Challenges – Achievement: Challenges are the “missions” that users can accomplish acting in the game. They provide a purpose to keep participating and motivate the user/player to reach rewards under the form of trophies and achievements. The real essence of achievements, however, is the possibility of show them to other users, with a structure that encourage confrontation with others that can ignite competition.
- Virtual Goods – Self-expression: the gaming economy built upon the possibility of gaining points can’t last long without something that user base can buy, gain and sometimes consume. The presence of virtual goods augments the interest of the players that can buy or earn a vast choice of objects, from clothing to weapons and skills, used to draw a unique identity in a social environment. In that way, for example, everyone can express themselves decorating their avatars and showing them to friends and colleagues. Virtual goods can also be a good way to generate revenue, proposing the purchase of special items in exchange of real currency.
- Leaderboards – Competition: the basic implementation of a leaderboard provides a way to classify and order the performance of users. A more focused one can ignite the spirit of competition hidden in everybody, driving the interest and raising the time that a user spends in game. The system can include multiple leaderboards (even one for every activity), tracking different aspects of the game so everyone can compare their capability with others. The competition is strictly related with the aspiration to be the best in the circle of friends and colleagues.