The biggest misconception about gamification is that it’s all about games. But it isn’t about games per se. Gamification is defined as the design approach for the application of game mechanics to non-game context. But to put it simply, gamification is the art of turning mundane into an engaging experience.
The “gamification” concept was derived from how people act and interact in gamified environments and the technique was applied to improve the user experience and user engagement in non-game scenarios.
The purpose of gamification is to drive behavioral changes by satisfying fundamental human needs and desires for reward, status and achievement through game mechanics like points, level and badges.
Game Mechanics in simple words
Points help in establishing a reputation and earn intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in a gamified system. One of the easiest ways to get started with gamification is through a point driven system. You can award points to your readers based on their interaction with the content on your site. Points are also the basis for assigning badges and unlocking new levels.
You can choose different types of points depending on the complexity of your gameplay.
1. Experience points (XP)
Experience points are given to a user depending upon his interaction with your content every time. The more you interact, the more experience points you earn. For example, every time you do an activity (commenting, sharing, etc) on the site, you get few points. Experience points go up each time, but typically can’t be redeemed for extrinsic rewards directly.
SEOMoz use experience points to improve engagement and contribution.
2. Redeemable points (RP)
Redeemable points can be converted into virtual rewards or prizes. Unlike experience points, redeemable points tend to fluctuate based on how much a user has redeemed his or her RPs. – (Image: CocobulbodyJewelry )
3. Skill points
Skill points are bonus points assigned for an activity. Skills points can be seen on many forums. Many publishers who also run a forum tend to use skill points in addition to Experience points.
TeamTreehouse use skill points for its users so that potential employers can quickly check Treehouse users categorized with their skills.
4. Reputation points
Reputations points are one of the most important and complex metrics within a gamified system. Just as in real life, reputation points are earned for doing meaningful tasks.
For example, StackOverflow gives reputation points in exchange for helping other community members. The site uses reputation points as a hiring metrics
5. Karma points
Karma points are used within a community to appreciate each other for a job well done. Karma points are introduced in a system to promote to encourage altruism among users.The difference between Karma and reputation point is that generally karma points can only a given by one user to another, and reputation points can be earned by doing some meaningful tasks.
Reddit, the popular social news website, gives Karma points when users submit content and other users upvote it or downvote it. Content receiving the most upvotes or karma points rises to the website’s home page.
Badges are special achievements you earn for participating on the site and are fundamental to the success of every gamification strategy. Foursquare is a classic example for using badges to onboard millions of users. The Huffington Post became one of the first publishers to assign badges to its community members based on their activity on the site.
Your badges should not stink. Badges create a perception and have the power to influence others. Deigning beautiful and limited edition badges can beautify the whole experience.
Badges should be awarded for simple and less interesting tasks, but going on, badges should become scarcer. Follow a simple philosophy of give more badges to users who are less active and less badges to active users. Exclusive badges should be designed to reward team members for special achievements.
Leaderboard is like a scorecard that shows a user where they currently stand within a gamified system. It displays points, badges and status of users in a decreasing order. And the main purpose of designing a leaderboard is to get people’s competitive spirit out in order to maintain a healthy environment. Leaderboard allows users to compare against each other and get motivated to move up the leaderboard.
There are several approaches to design a leaderboard. For example, you might want to show just the top users on your site (Absolute leaderboard). Though it has its disadvantages – it would be demotivating for the rest of the users who are way behind the top users in terms of points and badges.
Another approach could be to implement relative leaderboards that shows a user’s position relative to his friends or other users doing similar amount of activity on the site.
TIP: If your site has thousands of active users then you can use relative leaderboard, but if your site is new to gamification – go for absolute leaderboard, otherwise the board will look empty to your users.
Why is it important for Publishers?
The rise of social networks has been the main enabler in bringing games mechanics and dynamics to attract new audiences online. The success of Zynga’s virtual farmland FarmVille on Facebook unlocked the potential for online businesses including content businesses to shift its focus from consumption to engagement. Publishers in particular can use gamification to increase engagement, frequency of visits and user’s loyalty towards their sites.
The Social media sites like Digg, Reddit, StumpleUpon and publishers like “The Huffington Post” have fused gamification techniques around content to drive millions of readers to their sites.
The Huffington Post was the early adopter in using gamification techniques to trigger high-level of engagement by using badges and reward systems to encourage readers to perform a variety of activities on the site. Gamification is not all about extrinsic rewards, but it is more about intrinsic rewards, which motivates you to do simple and even dull tasks in an interesting way.
Remember, Gamification isn’t a magic formula for success. It should be treated as a performance “enhancer” to drive the engagement around your content. Ultimately it boils down to creating interesting and informative content that people would like to share. Your gamification strategy should help you reach your set goals by motivating your visitors to do more on your site.