7 - Designing A Gamified Solution
(EN: This chapter is a continuation of the previous one, and the break seems a bit arbitrary.)
Step Four: Determine the Player Engagement Model
After defining the scope and determining the value for the players, one of the most significant decisions to be addressed is how to structure the gamified solution. That is to say, what kind of game mechanics will you be employing?
Burke lists a number of parameters, as if they are either-or type of decisions. (EN: I don't think this is necessarily so for many of them, but it's a good way to contrast various options.)
- Social or Individual? Is this a game that the user will play on his own, or with other players? (EN: it's also worth considering whether there are spectators - non-players who watch the game - as this is also social, though they are not participating with the player)
- Collaborate or Compete? Will the individuals who participate in the game work together to achieve their goals, or will it be a competitive arrangement in which there will be certain "winners" who have an adversarial relationship with others playing the game? Or will people collaborate in teams that compete with one another?
- Intrinsic or Extrinsic? The rewards of a game can derive from playing the game itself (the player develops skills, enjoys the sense of winning, etc.) or from being rewarded for his participation (getting a cash prize) or come combination of the two.
- Campaign or Endless? Some games have a well-defined beginning and end, and others go on forever. And in some instances there is a combination of the two. A game of golf has a start and end, but "the" game of golf engages players over the course of many years.
- Scripted or Emergent? To what degree is the game "on rails" and forces the player to do what the game designer intends to come next, versus being exploratory in which players can proceed at their own pace, in their own direction, doing what they wish.
For example, a gamified employee training experience is individual (the employee trains on his own) but can be social (his progress is visible to others); it is collaborative (people teach and mentor others); the rewards are intrinsic (the trainee gets skills from the activities) with a little extrinsic (getting certificates or other recognition), will be endless (they will complete a module or a course, but will continue to train) and can be both scripted (each course is a forced march, some courses have prerequisites) and emergent (there are many electives, and the trainee can choose a path).
Step Five: Define the Play Space and Plan the Journey
Burke goes back to his narrative rather than directly explaining the tasks and decisions of this step. Some salvaged points:
- The "play space" has to do with the time and location in which a game is played. For some games, there is a defined field that contains the action. Others are played in a variety of location, but only during certain times.
- The player must be brought to the play space, and reminded to return to continue playing
- There must be a clear boundary between where play occurs and where real things occur - consider the difference between the play space of a stock-investing game in which players have fake portfolios and the real space of a brokerage account. You don't want players mistaking one for the other.
- The "journey" is what players do in the course of the game - the procedures for playing, setting up, receiving rewards, and so on. To play, the player must know how to play and understand how to win.
- A journey consists of a number of steps to be performed in order, or a number of activities to be engaged in whatever order. Each step must be satisfactory (interesting or challenging) and contribute to the whole of the journey.
- Endless journeys simply define steps to achieve a goal or one of many goals. Consider badges as an example - a player may work to earn one of several badges, and once a badge is earned the may continue toward another.
Step Six: Define the Game Economy
Some games, though not all, have an economy - particularly when the player can exchange points of some kind for a reward. The reward may be something he enjoys in real life, or which enhances his enjoyment of the game (think of fantasy games, in which the hero kills monsters to get gold and uses the gold to buy a sword that makes him better at killing monsters).
Even when there is no formal system of exchange, things such as points and levels can serve as totems of esteem. Players compete to be on the leader board, or to be better than other players. (EN: though there's some argument as to whether this is social or antisocial behavior.)
Economics also come into play when it is decided how hard a player must work to "earn" his points, level, badges, or other tokens. Something that can be easily achieved has little value, and players are not motivated to achieve it (and feel no accomplishment when it is handed to them).
Scarcity creates a form of value: the ability to earn a badge that few can earn (either because it is very difficult or because there was a time window) is greater than the ability to earn one that everyone else has.
There are four basic currencies that accumulate in games: fun, rewards, social capital, and self-esteem
Fun - The primary currency of games is the emotional engagement in the game itself. (EN: The author does a really poor job of describing what he means by this - consult other sources for information about what makes games "fun" for players, aside of the other elements listed here.)
Rewards - Items that a player can earn while playing the game. In some instances, a reward can be a real-world benefit (merchandise, services, discounts, money, etc.) and in others the rewards are enjoyed in the game (buffs or customizations). Rewards can engage a player in doing things that aren't very much fun for the same of earning the reward.
Self-Esteem - A sense of self-satisfaction for performance in the game. Some players are capable of awarding themselves self-esteem, by feeling a sense of accomplishment at meeting a goal they set themselves. In other instances, the game may prompt a player to recognize their progress - such as leveling up or earning a badge of achievement for accomplishing something.
Social Capital - Recognition by others for accomplishments in the game. The author notes that people are most often gratified by rewards that are noticed and appreciated by others within their social circles - which may include people they know in real life (a friend admires your skill as a tennis player) or people they know in the game (golfing buddies admire your putting skills). Social media may provide an audience for showing off accomplishments and getting compliments.
(EN: Burke goes on a rant after this about how social media adds value to games, as people's real-life peers will congratulate them on their game rewards. This should not be taken for granted. Bragging about video game high scores is more likely to get a person shunned and ridiculed than praised in most social circles. Bragging about winning a bowling tournament might get some vague words of praise, though most people aren't into bowling and don't really care. )
Step Seven: Play Test and Iterate
One of the most difficult aspects of a game is getting the balance right: making sure that something is challenging enough to engage without being too difficult to dissuade requires play testing. And even a game that has been play tested and improved enough to be released will benefit from constant observation and adjustment to ensure it remains engaging.
The author mentions that video game development is something that can take ears and cost millions of dollars (EN: though most of this involves bug-hunting rather than play tuning), so don't expect it to be easy. Also, video games tend to have a short shelf life - players get bored with them after a while and buy a different game. There are very few games that have the longevity to keep players engaged for years.
Because business is usually an ongoing concern, they want to provide games that keep players engaged for years - to keep them engaged with and buying the brand. So a business solution must plan in advance to continue to invest and develop over time to keep the game new and fresh.
(EN: I am unaware of any business "game" that has longevity - most last only a short while and accompany a specific campaign. The only example I can think of are non-game solutions like frequent flyer miles or sponsorship ranks in nonprofit organizations. It might be claimed that this is because gamification is new - but I have never heard of an effort that's lasted a year or longer. So he's preaching something that has never been practiced.)