Welcome back for another deeper exploration of the gamification spectrum. In my previous post, we described 3 patterns in the operational properties of gamification tools. However, the gamification spectrum is far more useful that just that. So this time we will show you 4 more insights we can glean from this spectrum.
Again, since the content of this post requires a deep understanding of the previous posts on the gamification spectrum, I recommend revisiting the following posts if you miss any of them:
Now, let’s start where we left off last time.
Pattern 4: Ideal Visibility and Scope of Feedback
Although gamified apps (e.g. FourSquare) often show off badges collected by their players, the tools with short feedback timescales (i.e. points and badges) are not ideal for public display. Why? Since tools on the far left of the spectrum use metrics that are cumulative, they tend to be biased in favor of those who have been playing for a longer time. So tools like points and badges are not really a fair comparison among the players. Making these tools publicly visible may actually demotivate the new players. Instead, tools with short feedback timescale are actually more suitable as feedback to the player himself. So it should only be visible privately to the player himself.
However, as we move to the right of the spectrum, the metrics become less biased and less susceptible to gaming. For example the use of time-bound metrics in leaderboards eliminates the bias that favors early players. Consequently, feedback and rewards from tools in this part of the spectrum are a more fair and accurate reflection of the player’s true ability. As such, they are more appropriate for public display within the community of players. On the far right of the spectrum, the achievements awarded from those tools are even suitable for display beyond the community of players.
Insight: Points and badges are biased in favor of long-time players, so they are not really a fair comparison of people’s skills (or abilities). Points and badges are primarily a feedback to the players themselves (not blatantly visible to the public). Showing off people’s points and badges publically may actually demotivate majority of the population.
Pattern 5: Value of Rewards
If we examine the rewards (i.e. feedback) of gamification tools, we can also see a pattern as we move across the spectrum. Because tools on the left of the spectrum only provide feedback to the players on their own performance data, the rewards from these tools are purely extrinsic. Moreover, because the gamified behavior is so simple—one action from the player, there is little uncertainty or mystery in the reward because they are either completely transparent or easily predictable.
As we move to the right, the rewards become less predictable, because a reward is triggered only when all the gamified actions are above a certain threshold. No reward is given even if only one—any one—of the gamified actions did not meet the criterion while all others are well above their respective thresholds. This makes the precise reward criteria harder to predict, and adds more mystery and uncertainty to the “game.” Such mystery not only creates entertainment value, it also serves as an anticipatory motivator for the players.
Tools on the far right of the spectrum reward their players based on the actions of other players—reciprocity or collaborative actions. This social element makes rewards from tools on the far right of the spectrum more meaningful and valuable to the players. Hence, rewards from these tools are more intrinsically motivating.
Insight: The rewards offered by points and badges are purely extrinsic. It simply tells the players what they’ve done transparently. Trying to add mysteries in these simple gamification tools may actually confuses new players early on. Mystery should be used later with tools on the middle and right side of the spectrum, where the rewards are more intrinsic.
Pattern 6: Sustainability
Naturally, tools on the left of the gamification spectrum are not sustainable, because the rewards they provide are purely extrinsic and have little long-term value to the players. Eventually the players will realize this fact and get bored quickly. On the contrary, tools on the right of the spectrum are sustainable, because the rewards they offer are intrinsic, more meaningful, and have greater value to the players.
Insight: Points, badges and leaderboards are great starter tools for implementing gamification. They work well in the short-term, and drive results quickly, but it’s not sustainable long term. If you want to gamify a behavior for long-term (years) you need to use gamification tools on the right of the spectrum.
Pattern 7: Implementation
At last, from an implementation and deployment perspective, tools on the left side of the spectrum tend to be much easier to build, implement, and deploy. That is precisely why so many tools on the market are basically variants of points, badges and leaderboards. On the other end of the spectrum, the tools are harder to implement because not only do they need to track more complex behaviors, they also need to capture different types of behaviors and perform sophisticated analytics to understand these behaviors. As a result, many tools on the right end of the spectrums are custom built. They also require a substantial amount of time and effort to tune and configure, so they are generally not turn-key solutions out-of-the-box.
Insight: Points, badges and leaderboards are easy to build. Companies having engineering resource can easily build their own system for tracking points, awarding badges and showing off people on the leaderboard. These simple tools are also readily available from vendors. However, more sophisticated gamification tools on the right of the spectrum must be designed specifically for your use case and audience in order to be effective. As such they are rarely available out-of-the-box.
Although I’ve developed the gamification spectrum as framework to help me organize the thousands of gamification tools on the market, it’s more than an organizing framework. We can glean a lot of insights from studying the gamification spectrum. And this time we’ve reveal 4 more insights in addition to the 3 we’ve discussed previously. So the spectrum is quite information rich now.
In the next blog I will discuss 2 very important patterns. Because these 2 patterns have profound implications in the business applications of gamification, I am going to devote an entire post to them!
In the meantime, can you discover more patterns, progressions, and insights from this spectrum? Feel free to discuss what you find here.
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