Gamification Creates a Social Network
When two people meet, anything may happen. They could have a conversation, or an argument. They could help each other, or they could fight. They could be polite or rude. Communication is especially beneficial when people share values and goals: it turns sets of individuals into teams.
In a professional environment, communication is made more difficult by the fact that it often feels like a distraction. A clerk in a grocery store may be in a hurry because he needs to restock the dairy section. A recruitment specialist may have trouble giving proper feedback to each candidate, because there have been more applications than usual. Two teams may feel like they’re enemies, because they’re competing for the same budget. A person who is very focused on a long-term task may neglect staying in touch with colleagues and miss an opportunity to benefit from their assistance.
Any game is essentially a set of rules. Hence one of results of applying game-like characteristics to a serious task is that we introduce new rules. We are free to decide if we want them to influence the task itself or not. For instance, if we award points every time the user checks into a tracking app, we’re not encouraging any specific attitude toward the task that we’re tracking. We’re just asking the user to make better use of the app.
Conversely, it makes perfect sense for the gamification layer to encourage specific behaviour on part of users without distracting them from their core activities. Even better, we are the ones to decide what behaviours are or aren’t convenient, beneficial, or even possible. For instance, Facebook has famously provided all users with the “Like” button, but there is no “Dislike”. One can “share” another person’s post, but not have it “buried”. Some social networks have opted to provide such functions, and their users behave differently as a result.
Here are some examples of behaviours and relationships we can encourage with gamification:
- always respond to queries,
- compare own results against other people’s,
- provide feedback, or even a specific kind of feedback,
- trade favours,
- share ideas,
- be less critical of peers,
- be more competitive, or more co-operative, or both,
- invite friends to join the activity.
Most games are competitive, which leads people to assume this is their inherent characteristic. The truth is we tend to create games about things we can express as rules and numbers. One of things we cannot easily model in this manner is conversation. Without conversations, opportunities for co-operation are greatly reduced, but confrontation still works.
Gamification sidesteps this limitation, because it engages hundreds and thousands of players at the same time. A machine cannot have a meaningful, free-form conversation with a human (yet), but humans can and will talk to each other, if we let them. It’s up to us to decide what kind of conversation is possible. For instance, Nintendo, one of the world’s most famous game publishers, doesn’t allow players to exchange text in some games, but it does allow them to exchange hand-drawn pictures.
The previous parts: