Five for Friday – Gamification

Five or so links from around the web about new and interesting applications of technology.

Gamification has well and truly been through the hype cycle at least once, but again we emerge from the trough of disillusionment and tentatively enter a slope of enlightenment as we all aspire to escape the boredom of Zoom-based interactions and deliver engaging experiences for users across different touchpoints. 

Gamification – broadly defined as the application of game playing elements and behaviours such as points, rankings and rewards, to non-gaming activities –  has become a big part of museum, gallery and library experiences, from the gamification of museum ‘e-guides’ that are increasing participation, to the ongoing success of Zooniverse in recruiting volunteers into citizen science projects via game-like quests. 

The thing about gamification is that it’s ultimately an established idea under a different name, because at heart it’s really about engagement and user experience. 

In this post, we’ll look at good and bad applications of gamification, what it really offers our users and how it could help improve the user experience for different types of services.

  1. A meta example

The Evolution of Trust is an interactive game with the aim of educating people about human behaviour and encouraging a shift towards a culture of trust rather than distrust. The game designer utilises game theory to allow participants to explore the reasons why people make the decisions they make and to demonstrate the philosophical and moral idea of what it means to be a trustworthy person.

2. A warning

It’s not all smooth sailing and there are quite a few downsides to carelessly applying gamification. Gamification can work by acknowledging and rewarding achievements, but only if the people who are playing the game actively commit to it. If people feel they are being forced to participate in a game that they’re not invested in, studies have shown there  can be a negative effect on their performance. Wired delve further into gamification successes and failures in this article The Power and Pitfalls of Gamification

3. A case study

It’s always useful and interesting to see how others implement gamification. This case study outlines the approach taken by library staff at Middle Tennessee State University when designing a gamified library orientation experience, LibGO, for students. LibGO initially used design thinking combined with basic coding to develop the idea and to ensure an optimum user experience. 

4. In the workplace?

In their recent article, ‘Are we being played?The Financial Times questions the increasing use of gamification to manage staff performance and explores whether introducing the element of competition can lead to an unwillingness to work collaboratively and even increase the likelihood of sabotage or cheating. 

5. The evidence? 

Beyond the hype, how effective is gamification anyway? Researchers at Liverpool University documented the process of gamifying their English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course when it switched to online. They found that involving students in the design, providing opportunities for reflecting on progress and collaborating at an early stage with other departments, such as education technology, were key to a successful outcome when gamifying learning. 

6. (honourable mention) – The future

With new developments to make the inclusion of game elements simpler, and applications becoming more nuanced, we’re only likely to see the use of gamification increase.

Startup Crux have developed Knowledge Tracker, a widget to encourage reader loyalty by offering ‘knowledge points’ as a reward for reading articles and deepening knowledge on and around a particular topic. 

This example shows the application of natural language processing technology to deliver a gamified experience that integrates with the broader user experience and goes step beyond the application of badges. Uniquely, this tracker challenges readers to move out of their comfort zone into new areas and topics, challenging the old system of algorithms that constantly feed the reader more of the same. 

The global pandemic has driven a necessary increase in online and interactive content. This has in turn led to an renewed interest in gamification (as those of us who spent lockdown with the Seek app or re-discovering Pokemon Go can attest) ranging from new applications to new approaches to collaboration aiming to make online learning and education more accessible. 

But beyond the hype, we are now better able to view the challenges as well as the benefits which is resulting in more interesting and more thoughtful applications of gamification.