Cheats and Walkthroughs
We gamers were, in a way, some of the prototypical test subjects for what is now known as gamification. With the introduction of achievements (and subsequently, trophies), we found ourselves 'gaming beyond the game', where it’s not enough to beat a game's story mode; we now had to get 50 headshots so we could get an icon and some status points.
Actual gamification today goes beyond consoles and PC games of course. It's letting your friends know you've checked into a restaurant, watched a TV show, or completed a yoga session. It's the addictive nature of ranking on a leaderboard in an intentionally short-lived car promotion Flash game.
Many minds and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of gamification as well as folks interested in lessons and success stories met recently in San Francisco for the annual Gamification Summit. Beyond the standard panels and booth showcases, this gathering featured a day devoted of in-depth workshops, underscoring the collaborative emphasis of this young form of business. From gamifying e-commerce to curing diseases through gaming, this was where folks from a wide spectrum of industries shared knowledge and learned best practices from each other.
As Senior Vice President of Digital/Social at Ogilvy, Infan Kamal gave examples of his firm's projects in gamifying big brands and satisfying simple brand desires. If you've visited a few brand websites, then you mostly have come across a branded browser game, VIP incentive programs, or even a leaderboard. Kamal stressed the importance of tailoring different forms of gamification to suit each product.
While these campaigns are tailored toward a specific brand and company, we find companies like Mozilla on the other end of the spectrum; they're providing a platform that lets various institutions display and issue badges and achievements through a shared infrastructure. Whereas many of Oglivy's clients are more on the corporate side, Mozilla's Open Badges project focuses more on educational and career incentives.
Even the most responsible mother-to-be would benefit from UnitedHealthcare's gamification initiatives. I chatted with UHC's Bob Plourde on how his group has helped pregnant women stay on track regarding prenatal care. UHC found a solid balance in awarding participants with both digital badges and practical physical awards, such as diapers and baby clothes. The group is looking to apply this achievement system to the senior population and senior care, complemented by the company's fitness tracking app, OptumizeMe. And while it's not exactly a new idea, UHC is also looking for ways to leverage innovations from the game industry for health and wellness programs, citing Dance Central, Dance Dance Revolution, and the Kinect examples.
The infectious charisma, humor and down-to-earth insights of Chamillionaire proved to be a hit on the last day of the summit. The Grammy-award winning artist shared a great deal about his success regarding fan engagement. Not satisfied with the poorly curated and maintained websites of some of his musical peers, Chamillionaire wasn't interested in bland online destinations that were haphazardly constructed by record companies. Along with the daily upkeep of his website, chamillionaire.com, he's giving his 'Chamillitary' fanbase a well-designed platform so they could truly showcase their devotion. Through leaderboards and a virtual currency system, one can see who is truly his number one fan, and actual physical prizes can be won including original paintings, unique plaques, and music video props, all autographed of course. It seems incredibly commonsensical, but Chamllionaire's panel was a reminder on how being authentic and giving people what they want can often trump a corporate committee-driven marketing strategy.
The summit's agenda made room for individuals who actually aren't part of a gamification company, but simply have insights on how they've gamified their lives. One such standout speaker was John Guerrera who has developed a personal system in accomplishing daily tasks. The latest version of his system (dubbed "ver. 3") is laid out into four parts: 1) the specific goals, 2) rewards for achieving those goals, 3) the points given for completing tasks (which in turn are redeemed for the rewards), and 4) consumable abilities, such as a one cheat meal that can be activated in case of a hunger emergency. John also had some insights on time-based goals that can be applied to work habits with or without gamification.
The example that resonated with me was when he gave himself a 10-minute block to continue writing a speech he'd been working on. He managed to hit a groove and ended up spending 27 minutes during this exercise. So the next time he worked on this speech, he preemptively set himself with a 27-minute block. Sure enough, the pressure to be continually productive during this larger time frame negatively affected his output.
As if Gabe Zichermann wanted to finish strong with his summit playlist, one of the last panels involved the controversial user influence website, Klout. As if anticipating a lengthy post-talk Q&A session, Vice President of Product Chris Makarsky wasted little time in acknowledging the sense of consumer confusion when it comes to both someone's Klout score as well as the curious list of topics that the site believes are your specialty.
Considering the numeric-based engagement of the site, it will be interesting if Klout manages to, as Chris puts it, "make the user feel special no matter the Klout score." He says that one small step in this direction is in introducing leaderboards based on specialized categories. Moreover, Klout has already had a number of rewards campaigns such as a collaboration with the Seattle Travel Bureau where they surprised Klout influencers specialized in Seattle with hotel stays in that city.
By its current definition and in the context of social media, gamification is still in its infancy; this is also only the third annual Gamification Summit. The thirst for sharing knowledge and case studies is there, as attendance grew by 50% over last year’s summit. It’s comforting that Gamification Co. has provided this annual gathering so that many of these ideas are shared, particularly across various industries. Gabe confidently predicts that every successful company in the world will have a game designer within the next 15 years, a claim that I find very hard to disagree with.