It is easy enough to gamify something. “I don’t like licking stamps but it’s fun when I try to see how many I can do in an hour”. Boom, gamification. But how do you know if your gamification is good gamification? Maybe thirty minutes into your one hour stamp licking session you’re already sick and tired of it all. Here are some idea to keep in mind to ensure that when you gamify something, it’s worth it.
An important aspect of gamification is the psychology behind what you’re trying to do. When you gamify something you’re most likely looking to motivate some type of behaviour. Because of this you have to keep in mind certain needs of each individual. The first is that they need to feel competent. They will most likely disregard anything that would make them feel less than competent. So you’ll want to make sure that the rules are clear and that the players can master the controls. The easier the controls are to master and the more second nature they become and the easier it is for the employees or customers to take part in your program. You don’t want them feeling as if they’re writing with their opposite hand.
Make it challenging
In saying this, a game that is too easy does not challenge the employee, customer or participant. This will take away from the competence of the game itself and will do the opposite of motivate. A good example of this is a simple card game of memory. Allow a person to play a game of memory. Ask them to play it again. And then again. They will soon become bored. You can think of this as a job or chore the participant must take part in. It can be repetitive and boring and frankly too easy. Start ramping up the difficulty by placing a timer on the game and even show them a leaderboard of people who completed the game faster. You will see a quick change in their interest in the game because controls are second nature, it’s easy enough to understand but at the same time challenges them. All of this is in the name of balancing your gamification. One of the more difficult and important aspects of gamification.
Take old games and make them your own
I have found that the best way to do this is by taking old, well known concepts and putting your own spin on them. For example, one problem I was having with a number of my cashier employees was that they didn’t see the customers as people in need of help but rather an annoyance. This is a problem since your only job is to really serve the customers. In order to motivate them to change their attitude a bit I added a little gamification.
Most people are familiar with the concept of Bingo. You complete your card by matching the numbers that show up on the Bingo balls. The original game is one of chance and wouldn’t apply much to motivating employees. So I got together with a bunch of them and we listed off funny, typical, nice and general things that customers due often such as talk about the weather or, make what we called a “dad jokes” or even something as simple as a customer smiling or being friendly. The reward was whoever completed the Bingo card had their name put into a draw that took place every month for a $10 gift card. The more cards they completed they more times their name was put into the draw. Almost instantly the employees were excited to see what customer they would get next and what they could cross off of their Bingo list. We had a lot of fun with it and management had positive reviews for the program.
Freedom to choose
This simple game was easy enough for the employees to understand which allowed them to explore other aspects of the game such as strategy. When you’re not confined to mechanics of a game or, when you’re not busy trying to figure out how to play, you spend more of your time playing and even more to that, more time strategizing and finding ways to win. This is a concept known as autonomy, another basic human need that goes back to the first paragraph about the psychology of it all.
Human beings want control, especially when playing game. Same goes for gamification. Promotions like Monopoly by McDonalds allow for autonomy by creating a playing board, one where you get to collect the pieces. Those who play feel as if they are in control of the board, their pieces and their collection even though the game is more about chance than anything. In my Bingo game, cashiers were awarded autonomy by selecting what they wanted on their Bingo cards. In this way they were allowed to strategize on how to play the game. Autonomy is the real difference between motivation and intrinsic motivation. That is, motivation one creates for themselves rather than external factors such as money as a motivator.
Make it social
Competition is always a great motivator but it doesn’t work for everyone. But, the bottom line is whenever you play a game you are always competing against something. Whether it be yourself, another player or the odds, competition is a key part of gamification but you don’t always have to look at it that way. In fact, I would suggest you look at it as less of a competition and more of a social experience.
One of the great things about gamification is that it can be a great talking point. When I implemented my little bit of gamification into my department, the conversations in the break room went from how much people hated their job to the games, the cards and what was on them. The social aspect of gamification can really immerse the player and create the intrinsic motivation that was talked about earlier in the article.