1 - Motivation: The Gamification Endgame

The opening narrative to this chapter involves a children's hospital in Canada, which asked patients to keep a "pain journal" recording their levels of pain multiple times per day. The patients were inconsistent in completing their journals, so the team took a different approach: they developed an iPhone application that would prompt them periodically to report their pain levels, and gave it a cartoonish appearance and a "special police force" theme that connoted the patient was on a mission to help the staff "hunt down pain." (EN: Later in the chapter, it is disclosed that the original reporting in the pain journals was 76% whereas the iPhone app got 90% compliance.)

Engaging Players at an Emotional Level

The difficulty in getting people to do mundane and tedious tasks is that the tasks themselves are mundane and unimportant: very little is accomplished and so there is likewise little motivation to undertake them. Gamification can be helpful in making tasks seem interesting or important - in spite of the fact that the functional outcome remains trivial and unimportant.

The term "engagement" is in fashion of late - which is simply a way of expressing that a marketer wants prospects to do what he wants them to do (the same can be said of an employer's desire for the "engagement" of his employees). If other people want to serve their own interests, or are simply not interested in being used, then they are said to be not "engaged." The problem, obviously, is in exerting influence and persuasion to get others to become engaged in what you want them to be doing.

(EN: Actually, the term has become far hazier that that, as "engagement" has been extended not merely to behaviors, but to attitudes. This is particularly evident in studies of employee "engagement." It's recognized that an employee will do the tasks necessary to keep a job, and even to do it exceptionally well, but at the same time feel no sense of connectedness to their employers; meanwhile lackluster employees who do a mediocre job may have great fervor for their companies. So in the end, it's a bit difficult to ascertain exactly what is expected and why companies should value it.)

Ultimately, engagement is based on the assumption that getting people emotionally involved in something causes them to remain enthusiastic about their continued involvement - even if their activities are trivial, unimportant, and unrewarding.

Rewarding Behavior

From a functional perspective, the benefits of completing a task serve as the reward for performing the task. Gamification provides awards that substitute for or augment the benefits received, and are particularly useful when the benefits of completing the task are unremarkable or unappealing.

Gamification provides kibble in the form or rank, badges, and scores. In the example of the children's hospital, the pain management application offered the children "ranks" from rookie to chief, leveling up by completing "missions" such as filling out their pain management reports for three days.

Intrinsic or Extrinsic Motivation

There are two basic forms of motivation:

The author asserts that gamification uses intrinsic rather than extrinsic awards (EN: which is not strictly true, but it attempts to make extrinsic awards seem like they are intrinsic) whereas rewards programs are a clearly extrinsic reward.

Elements of Motivation

The author mentions "the three elements of motivation," namely:

(EN: These are interesting observations, but they are not really "elements" of motivation, merely some of the motivational qualities of games, and certainly not comprehensive.)

Don't Mistake Business Goals for Player Goals

One of the key problems with gamification, and motivation in general, is that the company is focused on getting players to achieve the organization's goals rather than their own. That is, the company wants prospects to purchase its products, and it wants customers to purchase its products more and more often. But why should the customer want to purchase the business's services?

For example, a gas station might offer prizes and incentives with a goal of getting people to buy fifty gallons of gasoline a month. But what of a person who only drives enough to need to buy twenty gallons a month? No matter what prizes or incentives the station offers, he cannot be motivated to the behavior they wish to encourage in him because he should immediately recognize that it does not benefit him to take that action.

Granted, organizations must cover their expenses - and it would be unrealistic to expect them to spend time and money serving the needs of others when there is nothing in it for themselves. The point is that it is collaborative: business has no right to demand the customer do something that is not in the customer's interest, nor does the customer have the right to demand the business do something that is not in the business's interest. Instead, they choose to work together when a transaction is in their mutual interest.

There's a brief mention of customer "education" - which is not indoctrinating them to doing the things the business wants but merely creating an awareness of opportunities that are in their interest (and again, in mutual interest) to pursue. A customer may not want something you have to offer because he is aware of it, or does not recognize the benefit he can gain by using it. But awareness cannot invent benefits.

It's also noted that a business can help customers define their goals - but again, this is dependent on the goals offering benefits to the customer. A health-food grocery that provides incentive to purchase more products is encouraging the customer to benefit from eating a healthy diet more often. If they offer a reward-point system, it gives the customer a little "something extra" on top of the benefit of using their product - but the extras do not substitute for core value.

(EN: That is not strictly true. Consider the McDonald's "beanie baby" promotion - there were a number of customers who would buy a "happy meal" and throw the food away for the sake of getting the promotional item. The same can be said of department store credit cards, when customers are cajoled into opening an account to get a discount on their present purchase, those accounts are very seldom used again.)

As such, gamification is not a "fix" for a flawed value proposition in most instances. It can provide an extra incentive to do something now rather than later, or to choose one option over another if they are essentially the same. But it cannot make an unattractive offer attractive.