Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gamification: A Game-Like Language

There is one reason to explain why I haven't been nearly as active on the Gaming Journalist Gazette lately, but it's not because I forgot about this blog. On the contrary, I have been wanting to get back into my comfortable territory of talking about video games and the Video Game Industry, but through a span of a couple months I have been given the opportunity to study on a subject that is related to video games in one way. In many other senses, however, this subject does a good job of being different to video games.

I took an online course on Gamification, the act of creating more game-like experiences in non-game contexts. What do I mean by that? Here's an example. Consider your workplace. Consider your daily routine when you arrive at work and you realize that the activities you perform at work aren't necessarily that interesting to begin with. This can be problematic if you don't really have the right kind of motivation to perform tasks at your occupation. How do you get that right kind of motivation?

This is a situation where gamification can be applied if it's necessary. Employees in your company are looking to achieve their goals, but they don't want to get bogged down by the tedious nature that comes with the tasks they need to perform. With gamification tactics you can convey the message to your employees that they will be working on tasks that are truly meaningful, and that they have meaningful choices to make while they experiment in finding the right answers to any problems in the tasks. There is one critical ingredient that we must include if we are going to pull off a successful gamification model for our companies to follow.


The types of players in Gamification Systems

An example of Gamification badges
A gamified experience can't operate smoothly without having the element of fun. Make the experience intriguing for your employees, but most importantly, give your employees the freedom to express themselves in the way they want to while they complete company tasks. There is a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in gamification. The extrinsically motivating way is to just give your employees money or items that they will initially appreciate, but after a while the positive effects of these rewards could fade away. The intrinsically motivating way is to remind your employees the legitimate causes that are behind these tasks, to encourage them that this goes beyond just them, and to give them "quests" or "missions" that they can emotionally invest in because those things appeal to them.

Have a look at the pictures above. The first picture describes the player types of the gamification experience. We have our Killers, who just want to compete in the gamified system to conquer every challenge and defeat every competitor out there. Killers usually want the recognition of being at the top of leaderboards (which is a point of caution for game designers...) and they generally focus on winning. Achievers are mainly focused on gaining status and achieving preset goals. Achievers just want to be able to say that they accomplished certain feats while not being ultra competitive like the Killers. Explorers have the drive and desire to explore the unknown facets of the gamified experience. "Sociailites" enjoy the act of communicating with others. They just want to socialize with other members of the gamified community and they usually advocate the act of teamwork and altruistic activities.

However... gamification isn't all about points, badges and leaderboards.

The other picture above features a general display of badges that players can receive if they perform enough tasks on the online gamified system. Of course, when you look at the visual representations of these badges you initially get this positive idea that it might be cool to collect as many of these badges as possible. Is that what gamification is about? No.
While displaying the badges you have obtained shows off your status to the rest of the gamified community of players, there is a danger to dwelling so much on achievements. Just because you get a badge for doing something in a system doesn't mean that getting badges should be the only important thing on your mind. As a player, you need to consider why exactly are you playing this game to begin with. You need to be aware of the core causes of this game. The game that you are playing needs to have a distinct purpose and it can't be something you're playing just to play it.

There are many variables that go into gamification, and one of them would be the fact that the better gamified approaches tend to give players learning experiences that they can take with them well after they have played the game. Players need to get something out of this gamified experience or else they won't even bother to go back to it.

Points, badges and leaderboards are only a few small parts of the entire gamification development framework. These are 3 of the components of the framework. Alongside the components, there are mechanics and dynamics to account when designing a gamified system. Let me present to you a sample list of what I am talking about.

Gamification Design Elements

Resource Acquisition
Win States

Boss Fights
Content Unlocking
Social Graph

In the most basic terms, you do need to think like a game designer when you are designing a gamified system. Many of the things that I have just listed often go into actual game development processes for the sake of building the world of a video game. While gamification doesn't enter the territories that actual video games enter, it's worth noting that gamification is a tool that helps bring life to activities that are otherwise mundane and boring and turn them into activities that are worth performing. 

I took on this challenge of studying gamification in an online course, and through numerous weeks of studying, taking tests and written assignments, here are my Coursera results from the Gamification course that the University of Pennsylvania provided.

Steven Vitte
Statement of Accomplishment 
Gamification - University of Pennsylvania

Homework Quizzes:
Week 1: 4.00 out of 5.00
Week 2: 9.00 out of 10.00
Week 3: 9.25 out of 10.00
Week 4: 10.00 out of 10.00

Written Assignments:
#1: 8 out of 10
#2: 10 out of 10
#3: 10 out of 10

Final Exam: 27.90 out of 30.00     

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