Ten tips to gamify anything (Part 1 of 5)

Three years ago I became interested in games as a tool for supporting people to solve difficult challenges and thrive. I had played a number of  'business boardgames' previously, including The Flow Game, and had found them really useful in helping individual and teams gain clarity in the why, what, how and what next of working together.

In order to identify the fundamental attributes that underpin highly effective and engaging games I create my first board game with a friend, the collaborative problem solving game called The 3rd Space. the 3rd Space is a collaborative problem solving board game that was developed to support leaders of a global organisation increase their individual and collective decision making agility.

In developing The 3rd Space I identified a series of foundational game attributes for creating highly engaging and affective games - 10 attributes in total.  I then used the 10 attributes of highly engaging and effective games identified in developing The 3rd Space to create my second board game, creativityPRISM, and its associated iOS app. 

The 10 attributes of highly effective and engaging games is the focus of this blog series - a series of five blog posts exploring five sets of game attribute pairs. In sharing these 10 attributes my aim is to highlight how anyone can gamify any experience to make that experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

More specifically, I want to outline how the 10 attributes of high effective and engaging games can be used to gamify the experience of change - to 'game change'

gaming change

Why change?

\Well, in my work of inviting individuals, teams and organisations to Play A Different Game, I am inviting the people I partner with to engage in a journey of change. To change from their Current Game (a game they do not want to continue playing) to play a Different or New Game. In supporting others to Play A Different Game I have found the 10 attributes I will share in this presentation invaluable in creating a more engaging, collaborative and fun change experience

The five game attribute pairs of focus in this blog series are:

  1. Goals and Rules
  2. Risk and Reward
  3. Feedback and Social (Sharing)
  4. Momentum and Challenge
  5. Choice (Voluntary Participation) and Fun

Game Attribute #1: Goals

The goal defines the primary focus of gameplay and, ultimately, what success looks like in playing the game.

  • A goal is a mechanism for:
    • scoring and keeping score; and
    • determining who performed the best in playing the fame if playing against an ‘opponent’ 
  • When gamifying any experience the Game Attribute of Goals consists of three core elements: 
    • First, the ultimate goal to be achieved in playing the game needs to be crystal clear and compelling (for example, winning the game);
    • Second, the key sub-goals required to achieve the overall goal (for example, scoring points or goals) need to be explicit and achievable - this is how a game's players keep score; and
    • Third, the fundamental actions or activities to be undertaken to achieve the game’s primary goal need to be identified and succinctly defined (for example, kicking or throwing a ball, etc).

By way of illustration, the game of soccer operationalises these three core elements as follows: 

  • In the game of soccer the ultimate indicator of success is scoring more goals that the opposing team - this is the primary goal.
  • The key sub-goal is the actual act of kicking a goal against the opponent - this is how a team keeps score. 
  • Finally, the fundamental actions required to achieve the game’s overarching goal is for the players to have a high level of proficiency or skill in executing the game’s underpinning activities - kicking the ball, heading the ball, evading or tackling an opposition player, etc

Applying the game attribute of Goals to the game of Creating & Taking A New Product To Market we would:

  1. Establish the Primary Goal
    1. a valuable, viable and virtuous product available for purchase online with 100 units sold at full recommended retail price (RRP).
  2. Define the key Sub-Goal(s) (NB: consider using the principles if Innovation Accounting in developing the game's sub-goals)
    1. identify the potential product;
    2. create an MVP of the product;
    3. prototype and refine the new product with potential users of the product;
    4. confirm the new product's value, viability and virtuousness to a point of elegance;
    5. release the first version of the product to market via an online channel;
    6. undertake 'smart promotion' to further build awareness, engagement and adoption of the product by its ideal user.
  3. Define the activities to be undertaken to achieve each sub-goal of the game and, ultimately, the game's primary goal - and start keeping score of progress.

How to ...

To build your consistency in undertaking these important sub-goals and related action, give each key action a ‘score’. For example: 
  • 5 points each time I real-time tested the product prototype with a new user, and an additional 5 points of that user said unprompted, “this product is awesome.”
  • 5 points if a user of a previous version of the product prototype was willing to try the product again using a latter prototype.
  • 10 points if an early user was willing to place an advance order for the final product once released if prompted.
Using this point system I might see how many points I can collect within a first 3 months of the trying to bring the new product to market.

Game attribute #2: Rules

Game rules establish the conditions that govern how all individuals playing the game will play. And ultimately, the rules of a game determine how a player wins or loses. 

  • Rules are designed to equalise the playing conditions for all players. 
  • As a result, winning a game by playing by the rules becomes a factor of the player’s performance rather than the the playing conditions themselves.
  • A game’s rules also provide an element of:
    • safety in the game play - especially if the game is one underpinned by high levels of risk
    • consistency in how the game is played between the players in the game.
  • There are two caveats that underpin effective game rules:
    • First, the rules of game play must be clear to all players - if players don't know how to play the game and how to win they tend not to play;
    • Second, the rules for playing the game must be consistently upheld for all players:
      • if rules continually change then the quality of game-play decreases and players tend to disengage; or
      • if the rules are only applied to some players and not others then those players disadvantages will disengage.

How to ...

Applying the game attribute of rule to the game, Creating & Taking A New Product To Market, I might include the following game rules:
  • establish a time limit for how long I would take to implement each iteration of the product, say 30 days
  • establish an overall time limit for how long I invest time in creating and taking the new product to market
  • establish a financial limit on how much seed funding I would allocate in trying to take the new product to market
  • establish financial metrics for how I define and quantify the product's value, viability and virtuousness. 

What is the experience you want to gamify?

How might the game attributes of Goals and Rules be operationalised in your game to build greater focus and consistency in how you play the game towards your game's primary or ultimate goal?

My next blog post in this series will explore the game attributes of Risk and Reward - to critically important game attributes for generating engagement in a game, and commitment to play the game to the best of one's ability.