27 May 2013

Avoiding Gamification Failure

The pitfalls of implementing game mechanics

The usage of gamification has become widespread among businesses and organizations. The implementation of game mechanics in a non-game context is said to boost employee and customer motivation as well as their engagement. However, applying gamification successfully within your organization is not that straightforward. That is to say, just blindly adding game mechanics to your company’s application or website is probably not going to render the results that you are looking for. It is even predicted that 80% of the current gamified applications will fall short of their intended objectives by 2014. This raises the question what the underlying reason is and what can to done to avoid gamification failure. 

The starting point of any organization or company should be that the objective comes first and that gamification can merely be used to more effectively reach that objective. Thus, gamification is a mean and not an end and will therefore not fix all your organization’s challenges if you have an unclear objective or a poorly designed platform to begin with. Is it therefore not gamification itself that does not work, but a poor designing process that is unsupportive of your goals, which can have adverse effects on your organization. Therefore, identifying the specific goals you want gamification to support is the first and most important step to take.

Once you have clearly set your goals, there are a few other important things to take into account when implementing gamification. Knowing your audience is one of these. If you have a clear picture of for whom you are designing, it will result in higher effectiveness. Another crucial point is that organizations often focus too much on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy. Although the obvious game mechanics are important, they do not necessarily engage your target audience. They just constitute the tools that implement the underlying engagement models. Next to this, point economies should have assigned values. This means that the points that users acquire should be redeemable to either virtual or physical prices. Just collecting points will not produce high levels of gamified experience. Finally, it’s important to extend your gamified experience to multiple platforms. That is to say, included mobile devices and social media, as sharing people’s achievements online creates a higher level of gamified experience.

i-kifu holds that gamification could be an essential asset for its platform, but as stated above, it is aware of the possible pitfalls of a gamified experience. Acquiring a good picture of the target audience and design the gamification elements accordingly is therefore and important issue that i-kifu needs to address. As for the game mechanics, i-kifu has implemented a bono-point system, by which people can gain points for contributions they make to NPO projects. Based on these points they are ranked on a leader board. Although these basic game mechanics are in place, i-kifu needs to make these aspects more engaging in the sense that the point system needs to be linked to an actual value system. This is something that needs to be developed further in order to increase the gamified experience of the donors.

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