Ten tips to gamify anything (Part 4 of 5)

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.

The first blog post in this series explored the first two attributes of high effective and engaging games - Goals and Rules. The second post explored the virtuous relationship that can be created between Risk and Reward and the third blog post detailed the importance of Feedback and Social Sharing in facilitating greater game engagement and performance. This fourth  blog-post will outline the game attributes of Momentum and Challenge.

Game Attribute #7: Momentum 

A player will loose interest as a game if they perceive their progress has stalled, or they get bogged down in a specific task involved in playing the game).

  • Momentum is an important part of a game - does the player feel like they are making progress towards achieving the game’s ultimate goal
    • If a player feels that their progress towards achieving the goals of the game is slowing - or is stuck - then most players will only persist for so long before they give up on playing the game. 
    • And after all a game where there is no possibility of succeeding or winning is not a game at all. 
  • The condition of momentum in game play is closely related to another game attributes already outlined - Risk
    • The more momentum - specifically,  perpetual motion - in a game and the more people playing, the more unpredictable the game play can become, which in turn increased the level of risk to the players.

How to ...

Applying the game attribute of Momentum to the game, Creating & Taking A New Product To Market, I might:
  • shorten the cycle time for each iteration of the product prototype
  • ensure I dedicate some time each day to implementing an aspect of bringing the potential new product to market 
  • initiate some low-cost (free!) promotion of the potential new product to build market awareness and generate potential user interest - that way I have potential new users consistently engaging me rather than the other way around

Game Attribute #8: Challenge 

If a game fails to challenge a player in the right way to the right degree then a player will struggle to remain committed to playing the game.

  • Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has written extensively on Peak Performance - a psychological state called Flow
    • Flow occurs when the challenges of the task at hand are equally matched with the player’s ‘skill’ in performing that task AND the player ‘becomes one’ with the task being performed.
  • In game play, the immediate challenge presented by the game experience must be just enough challenge to keep a player ‘in the zone’ or on the edge of their performance capabilities, but not too much so as to overwhelm and result in a lose of momentum. 
    • If a game is too challenging then a player will become overwhelmed and begin to believe they won’t win the game and, potentially, stop playing; and
    • if a game is too easy and a player determines that there is no possibility of failing to achieve the goals of the game then the player will get bored.
  • There is also a biological and neurological factor related to keeping a player 'in the zone' when playing a game - especially if that game involves a higher degree (such as when trying to undertake change). Without getting into the biology too much, when a player identifies that they are going to complete a game challenge successfully (but before that actually do complete the challenge) the brain releases a ‘dopamine hit’ -  a player’s biological sensor for predicting the likelihood of success or the potential of receiving reward. 
    • A ‘dopamine hit’ is only triggered when a player is at the edge of their level of skill within a game and they perceive that achieving a goal is close, but potentially slightly out of reach. Therefore, Dopamine:
      • acts to increase a players risk-taking tendency when presented with a situation in a game where reward is considered highly likely;
      • enables the game player not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them; and
      • helps regulate the emotional responses related to 'the heat of game play'.
  • Finally, given that most players will continue to improve their performance the more they play a game then the level of player challenge needs to be continually adjusted upwards to keep the player in the most productive ‘challenge-performance zone’.

How to ...

Applying the game attribute of Challenge to the game, Creating & Taking A New Product To Market, I might :
  • steadily reduce the lead time between each design iteration
  • bring my planed launch date for the product forward
  • ask more potential users to interact with the early prototype of the idea
  • crowd-share those aspects of the product design and launch sequence that I  enjoy the least (this also has the added benefit of get the best advice and input I can to increase the likelihood that my new product will be successful - and it also adds a Social Sharing component to gameplay)
  • Or undertake a task within the product design and launch sequence I usually crowdsource to challenge and improve my own perform in undertaking task

By now you will most likely be well underway in your game.

Hopefully you will have implemented and further refined the goals and rules of your game (in my experience the goals and rules of a game of change are dynamic - that is, as we learn more about what we are seeking to achieve at the conclusion of the game then the goals and rules need to adjust accordingly). 

You will have implemented a degree of risk into your game (with associated rewards) and will have the required feedback loops in place to keep you safe and progressing in your game  and you may even have some fellow players in your game.

How is your game's momentum If it is too fast and you feel like it may overwhelm you then what do you need to do now to build greater stability into your game? If your game is being played in fits and starts, then what can you do to increase the cycles of game play to build greater and more consistent momentum? Perhaps you need to adjust the games challenge level to better align with your level of skill? 

My final blog post in this series will explore the game attributes of Choice and Fun - a game where you cannot say 'no' to playing is not game at all and a game that is not fun to play is not worth playing.

Read the final blog post in this series.