Gamification / Motivation

Seems we have picked up A LOT of new readers recently, which is probably testament to the overall increase of awareness and interest in Gamification in the market. We owe regular readers an apology, due to the success of our consultancy businesses the website has been sadly neglected over the past couple of months – for this we are sorry!

There will be new material posted soon as well as an announcement on the future direction of Gametuned, in the meantime for our new readers enjoy a classic from our archive…

The following post was originally published on this website on May 20th 2011.

Within a previous post on this website “Is Sales Force Gamification Possible?” I quoted Daniel Pink, author of Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. For that post I asked Daniel about his thoughts on gamification to which he replied

“Gamification could go either way — towards 2.0 if the rewards are the point of the exercise, towards 3.0 if the rewards are a form of feedback, information, and a way to make progress and achieve flow.”

As a major advocate of gamification and a fan of Daniel’s work I have been pondering this challenge and have attempted to lay my thoughts out in this follow-up post.

For those who are not familiar with Daniel Pink’s work the 3.0 referred to above is the system he describes as Motivation 3.0 which basically states that if people have autonomy, gain mastery and have purpose then they become fully engaged and motivated within their environments. In relation to gamification if there is no purpose to a campaign or system then really, don’t bother trying to gamify it. So this post is really about autonomy and mastery.

The science of Behavioral Economics suggests that people are not homo economicus, rational deciders who make decisions based purely on evaluation and rational decision making. There are many studies that support this field, one of the most interesting was studying the work habits of New York City taxi drivers. The study observed that taxi drivers pay a fixed fee to rent their cabs for 12 hour shifts and then keep all their revenues, and they decide how much of the 12 hours they work each day. A purely rational, economic person would work longer hours on good days (such as rainy days or when a big convention was in town) and then work shorter hours on bad days thus maximising revenue and minimising unproductive time. However the study found that the vast majority of cabbies do exactly the opposite, they fix a daily earnings target and keep working until they hit their target, thereby working less ‘productive’ hours on good days and more ‘unproductive’ hours on bad days.

Another commonly used example is The Ultimatum Game which is a simple game used in economic experiments. In this game two players are offered an amount of money, they have to decide how to split it between them. If I was playing the game with you and the amount we were being given was $100, if I offered to split it 50:50, $50 each you would most likely say yes. However if I offered you only $5 and kept $95 for myself would you accept?
The majority of people say no. Clearly this is not a rational economic decision, rationally it is in ones’ interest to accept any offer made. By saying yes you get some money, saying no just because “it is not fair” gets you no money and is therefore not economically rational.

Behavioral Economists show us that we are not rational deciders, in fact they suggest that we make predictably irrational decisions. Behavioral economics is therefore the study of how to predict our irrationality. Experts in the field say we often make economically poor decisions due to the influence of a whole range of cognitive biases. These biases include theories such as loss aversion, hyperbolic discounting (the principle that the further away in time an outcome is the more we discount it’s value) and the bandwagon effect. Understanding these biases means that through the application of gamification mechanics we can “nudge” people towards making better decisions.

The danger is that these “nudges” are usually applied through the use of extrinsic rewards. A common theme of gamification detractors is that, by applying extrinsic rewards to everything – points, badges, achievements etc we risk devaluing intrinsically rewarding tasks and having effects contrary to desired outcomes. This kind of carrot/stick approach (or Motivation 2.0 thinking in Daniel Pink’s terms) when applied to creative and intrinsically rewarding tasks is not effective as it reduces one’s sense of autonomy and therefore it’s poor application is hugely de-motivational.

In order to understand when and how to use extrinsic rewards, or in other words where gamification best fits, it is worth gaining an understanding of the brain’s intrinsic reward mechanisms.

Neurologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired to reward us for making successful predictions, choices or behavioral responses through the Dopamine Reward system. After making what we perceive to be a correct prediction, choice or action our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that  helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Games designers use this powerful pleasure response to get us engaged with their products.

The effect this has on our decision making processes is that once the brain rewards us for making a choice we will be inclined to make that same choice again. By then attaching an extrinsic reward to the preferred choice we can use this hard-wired intrinsic reward system to affect behavior and reinforce a sense of autonomy for our decisions.

Gradually our brains then learn to intrinsically reward us and extrinsic rewards become of less value (and risk decreasing our sense of autonomy). In order to keep people engaged it then becomes necessary to consider the intrinsic/extrinsic reward balance.

To get people initially engaged with gamified systems the extrinsic rewards need to have a high value (in economic currency – real, virtual or purely social) and the path to mastery needs to be well defined. However, over time giving the same level of reward leads to dis-engagement and we risk getting stuck in a Motivation 2.0 rut. In order to move the system towards Motivation 3.0, (autonomy, mastery and purpose) it is important to reduce the value of extrinsic rewards given for a specific task, and increase the choices on the path to mastery, thereby keeping users engaged, motivated and achieving flow.


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What is Gamification?

We are delighted to welcome Harry Rollason of Useful Social Media as a guest blogger this week. Useful Social Media are hosting The Game Dynamics for Brands Summit 29th February – 1 March 2012 in New York. Gametuned are proud to support this event where “real” marketers can discuss real world implementations of gamification, not just the standard theories and waffle that are the trademark of many conferences and summits in this space! So over to Harry…


What is Gamification?

So what is gamification? It is a question that increasingly being asked by marketers around the world. Is it just ‘buzz’ word that’s fashionable for the time being, or is it here to stay?

It’s a very difficult question. But we here at Useful Social Media believe it is more than just a fad and many large corporations agree with us, rushing to apply gamification for their brands. Applying game dynamics to your brand differentiates you from your competitors, imperative in today’s competitive landscape.

Companies are turning to gamification as an innovative new tool to engage with customers who are used to the tricks of advertising and PR. Applying game dynamics for your brand has one critical advantage, the ability to enhance ‘stickiness’ for your brand, so keeping your consumer coming back for more. Create a successful gamification policy for your brand and the engagement possibilities can be huge.

But gamification goes further; it is helping real people with real issues; promoting fitness, helping to improve education and reducing waste.

By harnessing the ‘stickiness’ of games you can also build a relationship with your end users which was almost impossible 12 months ago. And with the market for gamification booming, now is the best time to get ahead of the game at the front of the wave. Especially with current research showing…

• that M2 Research have predicted that the gamification market will be worth an estimated $1 Billion by 2015

• and an estimated 20 million of the more than 25 million 12 -17 year olds in the US are gamers

• that research from the NDP Group showing that 20% of the US population have played a game on a social network sites. And what’s more, that 35% of these social game players are first time gamers who have never played any other kind of video game

• and with Americans now spending 22.7% of their online time on social networks, which is far more than anything else, including email at 8.3%

As advertisers struggle to find alternatives to traditional media, games are looking like a very attractive option for brands to achieve their marketing goals.


But is it just a buzzword?

Gamification draws mixed emotions from many in the business marketing world. It’s sometimes seen as a buzzword with few real benefits for business. It has been talked up all over the web as a huge opportunity, but many are still sceptical.

A lot of thought leaders are critical of the simplistic game dynamics companies are choosing to use – suggesting ‘pointsification’ is a more accurate name. Companies are being lazy, failing to add meaningful game dynamics and as a result ending up with gimmicky campaigns. There are too few examples of companies integrating game dynamics on a deep level, and too many examples of companies simply adding a basic point-scoring system to an otherwise prosaic website.

However, some companies are now moving forward and experimenting further. Real results are starting to emerge which seem to prove the power of the new ‘game layer’. The website Allkpop claims it saw a 104% increase in link shares and 36% more comments when it introduced gaming services by Badgeville. Badgeville themselves, a leading gamification platform in the space, say that companies average a 25% lift in user-driven objectives specific to their business with smart gamification techniques.

“Industry-leading brands across retail, enterprise, entertainment, healthcare, services and education are increasingly applying social rewards and reputation to drive user behavior,” said Kris Duggan, CEO, Badgeville. “From Deloitte to to NBC, our customers rely on Badgeville’s Behavior Platform to increase conversions, time on site, referrals, user-generated content, and, ultimately, profits.”


The future of gamification

The consultancy firm, Gartner, predicted in a report in April this year that “by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes”; and foresee that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon’’.

Gamifcation is very real, has tangible benefits and is here to stay. But whatever the strengths or weaknesses of this new tool, it’s clear that any marketer serious about innovation and improvement will have to look at the new tool in detail, and judge for themselves.

Build a successful gamification strategy for your brand and the benefits can be great. You can boost brand loyalty, keep your customer engaged and instantly build a relationship between your brand and your end customers. A marketers dream come true.

But even with such a potentially huge opportunity, there are many questions for brands to answer: What rewards should you offer? What sort of game should you design? What are your strategic goals?

I ramble I know, as I have a tendency of doing, but there is a reason for my rant. We here at Useful Social Media are always trying to provide you with useful content. That is why we have carried out an interview with Oliver Fleischhut, Director of Online Communications at Siemens and Samantha Skey, Recycle Banks Chief Revenue Officer to deliver two knockout best practice case studies. As both are real leaders in the gamification space.

Siemens discuss how they created Plantville, their much acclaimed first venture into gamification.

Recycle Bank talk about the importance of gamification being one of the first in the ‘gaming for good’ space.

You can grab a copy of the briefing by heading here. Or if you would rather talk than read – then connect with me at @HRollasonUSM11 or drop some feedback in the comments below!

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Call Centre Gamification

Chilean based Arcaris provides a Social Performance Management platform for Contact Center Outsourcers and Enterprises to improve their agents performance and motivation. Using gamification concepts the Playcall platform encourages positive agent behavior; resulting in decreased staff turnover rates, reduced training costs and increased profits.

Playcall gamifies performance allowing agents to see how their performance ranks against others at their company. Based on company specified KPIs an agent can monitor their progress and react accordingly. Agents can also communicate with their supervisor and receive awards based on achievements. The e-learning integration looks very interesting as it provides additional motivation to engage agents in training and do well in associated quizzes.

Arcaris’s Playcall platform is designed to create a playful, competitive team environment using gamification to drive employee engagement and boos productivity.

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Using Gamification to Solve Problems Within Communities

Gamification is the application of game mechanics and game thinking to drive engagement and solve problems.  Earlier this year Gartner, Inc. stated that by 2015 more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will use gamification and that more than 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application.

The aim of gamification is to create higher levels of engagement, change behaviours and stimulate innovation.

Gartner identified four principal means of driving engagement using gamification:

1. Accelerated feedback cycles. In the real world, feedback loops are slow (e.g., annual performance appraisals) with long periods between milestones. Gamification increases the velocity of feedback loops to maintain engagement.

2. Clear goals and rules of play. In the real world, where goals are fuzzy and rules selectively applied, gamification provides clear goals and well-defined rules of play to ensure players feel empowered to achieve goals.

3. A compelling narrative. While real-world activities are rarely compelling, gamification builds a narrative that engages players to participate and achieve the goals of the activity.

4. Tasks that are challenging but achievable. While there is no shortage of challenges in the real world, they tend to be large and long-term. Gamification provides many short-term, achievable goals to maintain engagement.

By age 21 the average person has spent approximately 10,800 hours in education and 10,000 hours playing computer games. This is a significant number as there is now abundant evidence across a range of abilities that roughly 10,000 hours practice is needed to achieve international levels of performance. One can therefore conclude that the average 21 year old has become a virtuoso gamer.

The systems organisations traditionally employ whether for communication or administration have little or no relevance to the emerging consumer.

Behavioral Economists believe that a range of cognitive biases heavily influence our decisions. These biases include effects such as loss aversion, hyperbolic discounting and the bandwagon effect. At Gametuned we believe that the level of gaming the average young adult has been exposed to has influenced their cognitive biases. People increasingly expect instant feedback, instant gratification, achievable tasks and a “greater purpose” none of which are typically experienced when tackling “real world” problems.

Through the careful application of the same mechanics and dynamics game designers use to make their products engaging gamification helps companies engage with their employees, their customers and the ecosystems around their products and services.

As well as the current generation of gamers (and those to come) it is worth noting that the Entertainment Software Association’s 2011 sales, demographic and usage data for computer games found the average gamer to be 37 years old. 53% of all gamers are aged between 18 and 49 and 42% of gamers are female so the use of gamification has relevance across a large portion of the population.

Emerging Market

The gamification market is in a period of rapid growth with a number of platforms emerging which aim to simplify and automate implementation of a gamification layer to websites and systems.

These platforms enable the design of gamified systems aligned to the capabilities of available platforms effectively minimising the risk of lengthy and expensive project development.

The gamification market will continue to expand rapidly for the next 4-5 years, it is likely to be a somewhat fluid landscape with the larger, well-funded companies seeking to acquire and integrate their smaller competitors. In fact recently the first activity indicating market consolidation was announced with BigDoor Media’s proposed acquisition of OneTrueFan.


Gamification drives engagement through the application of game mechanics such as



Appointment Dynamics

Community Collaboration



Reward schedules

Through the application of these mechanics customers have seen remarkable results. BigDoor Media in a recent announcement stated users of websites utilising the BigDoor Engagement Economy System are

7x more likely to register

3x more likely to return

30% more engaged

Sharing 200% more

Whilst Bunchball (a competing platform) state

Customers using Bunchball’s Nitro solution have seen page views double, pages per visit increase 60%, unique visitors increase 30%, time on site increase 100% and a doubling in repeat monthly visits, leading to an ROI of 400% — with a payback time of as little as 3 months.

Social Gaming For Good

Gaming for Good was an initiative run in April this year by Recyclebank, a company that rewards consumers with coupons and discounts for taking small, everyday green actions in association with Google and ROI Research Inc.

The initiative took the form of an online gamified website called the Green Your Home Challenge where participants visited the site throughout the month to learn how to be more environmentally conscious and to take simple green actions throughout their own homes. Engagement through the month was driven by the sequential opening of rooms in a virtual home on the website.

The project had three main goals

Encourage participants to do their part through small green actions

Increase levels of engagement

Drive new member acquisition

The outcome was extremely positive

Fifty- eight percent of participants surveyed said they are very/extremely likely to take additional green actions in the future as a result of participating in the challenge.

Participants who visit the website at least once a week went from 23.7% to 45.4% (91.6% increase).

71% increase in unique visitors and 42% increase in new members

Even in this highly limited implementation Recyclebank’s Green Your Home Challenge was successful in employing Gamification techniques online to have an impact on offline behavior, specifically the level of eco-friendly activity of participants.


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Bigdoor Acquires OneTrueFan

Seattle based BigDoor Media have recently announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based OneTrueFan, a distributed community and web check-in rewards system. BigDoor have enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past 12 months and have now grown their customer base to over 300 companies. In fact the company have said

Demand has been so great that we have taken the bold step in acquiring OTF as a way to accelerate our product development and phenomenal growth.

BigDoor have focussed on major brands such as MLB as they have grown their business whereas OTF have been focussed on bringing gamification to the SME market so the acquisition makes a lot of sense to us. Does this also herald the start of the inevitable consolidation of the somewhat fragmented gamification industry?

More info here

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