250 points. That’s how much I’ve given myself for finishing this article. Part competition, part motivation, gamification is one of the few remaining strategies to keep customers engaged in today’s hyper-fragmented world, where your big idea is, usually, a 20 millisecond blip on a customer’s radar, forever forgotten afterwards to the shifting sands of the next new idea.
Games, for many people, short circuit this transient nature of communication. We can become fully engaged with games for extended periods. A group of men who rarely spend two hours doing anything are transfixed to a television for the entirety of a sporting event. The psychology of games is such a powerful force that there are psychological conditions defining the over-consumption of or addiction to games.
Games often resemble work — a steady grind towards a vague ending — but unlike work, we subject ourselves to their tedium voluntarily. A 1996 paper by Richard Bartle identifies 4 key motivations for playing games: achievements, exploration, socialization, and killing.
Achievers are players who prefer to gain “points,” levels, equipment and other concrete measurements of succeeding in a game. They will go to great lengths to achieve rewards that confer them little or no gameplay benefit simply for the prestige of having it.
Explorers are players who prefer discovering areas, creating maps and learning about hidden places. They often feel restricted when a game expects them to move on within a certain time, as that does not allow them to look around at their own pace. They find great joy in discovering an unknown glitch or a hidden area.
Socializers choose to play games for the social aspect, rather than the actual game itself. The game is merely a tool they use to meet others in-game or outside of it.
Killers thrive on competition with other players, and prefer winning against other humans.
Meeting the needs of each of the four types of players above is truly the secret to captivating an audience. Transforming your product or service into a game may feel like it is infantalizing to your noble cause or to your customers, but it can often be the difference in an average product and a whopping success.