Gamification Design: Just Read This Article


This week's topic is gamification design. The reason why I wrote this article is because gamification design has been talked about a lot in the past two or three years. But in fact, it's a bit of a chore. Most of the time, it's just a gamification name, and there's nothing new in what you do. So I'm going to do a roundup of all kinds of sayings on the market, and let's talk about what gamification design really is.

Classification of Gamification 

The concept of gamification is nothing new, and it has become popular since 2003-2004. Based on the summary made by a brother named Sebastian Deterding in [Gamification: Designing for motivation], I divided these various "gamification" articles into the following types.

Type 1 - disassemble the structure of "Gamification"

This kind of article aims to explain the compositional logic of a gamified product. While explaining the conceptual framework of "gamification", it can also generally give some design suggestions. There are some differences in what different models emphasize. For example, the more common ones are:

1) DMC Model: Emphasizes that players are guided by some internal drive.

The components of the game are divided into three levels from essence to appearance: dynamics, mechanisms and components. This model emphasizes the underlying motivation of players to play the game, that is, why players want to play the game. The idea of this model is similar to the atomic design that our designers often talk about. They believe that the game power and mechanism can determine the external form of the game. Designers give priority to the power and mechanism of the game, and then choose a matching game form.


2) MDA model: Emphasize that games should be "fun" and emotional

Divide the components of the game into three levels: Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics, emphasize the artistic expression and perceptual aspects of the game, and divide the "fun of the game" into different types of analysis. Thinking from this framework, designers need to realize that they can only build games from the level of mechanism-dynamics, but users experience the fun of games based on the level of aesthetics-motivation, so designers should analyze from the perspective of users The final experience of the game, and then go back to analyze what kind of mechanics-dynamics can bring this experience.


Type 2 - Explain why "gamification" works

This kind of article mainly wants to study why "gamification" can attract people to play continuously, and whether there is any theoretical support or a more systematic explanation behind this phenomenon. At present, the research on "gamification" in academia is basically this way. Computers in Human Behavior last year divided these papers into 3 categories:

  1. Based on theories related to emotional motivation: flow theory, self-efficacy or self-determination, etc.
  2. Based on behavioral theory: reinforcement theory, technology acceptance model, etc.
  3. Based on learning-related theories: cognitive load theory, social learning theory, etc.

In the industry, gamification articles based on emotional motivation and behavioral theories are actually the most common. I guess most people are most familiar with flow in the above series of theories. Compared with academia, the industry prefers models that have direct guiding value for design, such as:

Explaining Gamification with Flow Theory: Emphasis on achieving an efficient and focused gaming experience.

This theory is quite suitable for the current business environment, so it is widely used. In short, it is based on the user's ability to reasonably set tasks, properly guide attention, and give immediate feedback, so as to guide the user to do a thing for a long time, with high intensity, without eating or drinking, and without being tired.

1) Explain Gamification with addiction model: emphasize continuous long-term use by users.

This theory disassembles the player's continuous game behavior into a trigger-action-reward-investment-trigger cycle, emphasizing that through these four steps, users are guided to do one thing in a long-term and continuous manner. Similar to it is the Fogg model.

It is worth noting that putting addiction under the flow theory is actually a lift for it. Although the addiction model is something we hear today in our daily work, it can only be regarded as a "design idea" with strong behaviorism. In fact, it has not been demonstrated by rigorous evidence. Therefore, it is still a long way from the serious theory.

Type 3 - teach designers how to do "Gamification"

This kind of article generally proposes some design methods or design processes, similar to the "6-step design of a successful gamified product" type. This kind of article is the kind of "gamification" article that I find boring. I have seen at least 3-4 different versions, such as:

1) Scenario game design: Chasing, Enhancing, and Deploying

To put it simply, it is to first find a potential gamification scene (from daily life), and then appropriately exaggerate some of the key scenes to make a game prototype, and then continuously test and iterate this prototype with players.

This method emphasizes observation and user participation. It is a very sincere and classic game design method. But the problem is that when we do product Gamification, we often need to face a scene with little Gamification potential, such as filling in forms. Its rules are fixed and unchangeable, so there is basically no gamification flexibility. All "Gamification" elements must be foreign, not from the product itself.

For example, game designers can get inspiration from cooking and make a "mischievous kitchen", but product designers can't "gamify" the form filling feature into a "mischievous form filling".

we can only make one that has nothing to do with filling out forms. "Form to plant a tree", fill out a form to help you plant a tree.

2) 6-step method of gamification design

Divide "Gamification design" into six steps: clarifying objectives, defining behaviors, describing users, formulating activity cycle, evaluating fun, and deploying implementation.

In this design method, except for the 4th step of "formulating activity cycle" and the 5th step of "evaluating fun", which are more original, the other steps are not much different from the double-diamond model of ordinary product design.

Step 4, "formulating activity cycles", is about setting up a "trigger-action-reward-engagement-trigger" behavior cycle similar to the addiction model, and at the same time allowing the player to maintain a step-by-step process in this cycle , spiral upward. Similar to fighting - get reward -fighting - upgrade

Step 5 "evaluating fun" is to suggest that designers should look back and see if their game products are really interesting. They can't just put a gamified shell to do boring things.

3) Player-centric design flow process

Divide "gamification design" into 5 steps: understand the user, understand the task, understand the motivation and develop incentives, produce game mechanics, and evaluate and measure.

Compared with the above 6-step gamification method, this design process emphasizes incentives, and also emphasizes that users can be motivated to play from both external and internal incentives.

Although there are many articles on these design methods, but to remove the appearance, it is inseparable from the big process of exploration-design-verification. It’s just different from the behavioral path of starting and ending with a single arrow when making a general product. Making a gamified product requires designing a reasonable and interesting behavior cycle.

But what kind of behavior cycle is reasonable? These methodologies are often not discussed in detail, but return to the three piece flow / addiction / Fogg model. For the specific skills of game design, I recommend you to read books in the field of game design. For example, in the Art of Game Design, I made the following suggestions on how to design the interest curve of games:

At the beginning, it is necessary to give users a quick experience peak (point B), and then let users encounter difficulties and continue to upgrade step by step during the difficulties.

Type 4 - introduce specific game means or ideas

This kind of article is the most popular and produces the most content. It is generally titled "How to Gamify a Product", and the content of the introduction is almost PBL (points, badges, rankings) or other similar things . These methods are very specific and low in abstraction, and can be used out of the box, so most "gamified products" will choose to directly learn from these methods. The market classifies these Gamification methods into the following two models:

1) Octagonal model (outer ring)

This model divides gamification into four quadrants along two axes: intrinsic and extrinsic drives, black hat thinking (driving) and white hat thinking (driving). The internal drive focuses on the game experience, and the external drive focuses on the game results; the black hat thinking represents the negative motivation with a sense of urgency, and the white hat thinking represents the positive motivation. It also places 8 different motivations within these four quadrants, further breaking down the motivations of different gamification techniques.

This model mainly summarizes the different motivations of users to play games, which can be classified into Type 1 - Dismantling "gamification" constructs. The reason why I put it here is because I personally think that the complexity of this model is too high, and it is more inclined to explain, and the ability to guide the design is not very strong, so we mainly look at the gamification motivation and the means:

  1. Create a sense of mission: You can write a background story for the game, give the protagonist powerful props at the beginning, or link public welfare to the game;
  2. Progress and sense of achievement: You can add achievement points system, badges and other achievement symbols, progress bars, leaderboards to the game...
  3. Let players start their creativity: You can add clearance items to the game (similar to Mario's mushrooms), provide a variety of options branches...
  4. Emphasize ownership: you can add favorite elements, avatars, etc. to the game...
  5. Create social connections: You can add a social system to the game, such as a mentoring system, or allow users to show off/display props;
  6. Emphasize the sense of scarcity: make users feel that they are very close to achieving their goals, or show users that they need to pay a certain price to get things, such as paid props;
  7. Mobilize curiosity: add lottery, random rewards, etc.;
  8. Take advantage of players' fear of loss: for example, setting time-limited rewards, or making players have a lot of sunk costs.

2) Gamified Strategy Cards

Compared with the octagonal model, this tool is more inclined to explain how "gamification" as a shell can better serve the goal of "gamified" products.

Strategy 1: Provide an immersive experience with novel interactive forms to stimulate positive emotions in users.

  • Building a world view: avatars, background stories;
  • Set surprises: add lottery, add randomness to the game.

Strategy 2: task support, use the interaction of game like tasks to transfer knowledge to users.

  • Help players adapt to the difficulty of the task: set the level system, break down goals, and gradually increase the difficulty;
  • Packaging rhetoric for goals, feedback, means, and results.

Strategy 3: Provide emotional persuasive elements that drive user engagement.

  • Self-achievement: rewards, points, collection, limited time, scarcity, punishment;
  • Social achievements: Competitive goals, leaderboards, teams;
  • Self-expression: Allowing users to customize certain elements or make choices; create profiles or badge systems for users;
  • Social relations: allow users to cooperate, trade, help, etc.

2. The concept of gamification is like sugar paper

At work, the most questionable point about the concept of gamification is that all its ideas, such as task design, should be gradual, such as giving users positive and timely feedback... Everything is a known work in experience design way, there is no new concept or method that has not been seen before. Under such circumstances, many people will think that why do we still need to gamify the design of this "sugar paper" to package these things we are already doing?

My opinion is that although the techniques of gamification design are known, in the daily work of designers, for various reasons, we tend to ignore these points or prioritize them. Low. For example, everyone knows that the less information a page contains, the more focused the information, and the easier it is to guide clicks. But in actual work, the page has to be filled with the instructions of the boss.

Gamification design provides a complete set of solutions and promises a very attractive vision: if you follow this plan, your products will be as irresistible as games. Therefore, using the game shell to package the whole design scheme can make people temporarily jump out of the conventional thinking path of our daily work and do things from a less serious and player perspective. Personally, I think it has its value.

On the other hand, because gamification is just a layer of "sugar paper", the core of the product it wraps is still the same, so gamification is not a panacea. For example, advertisements packaged into lottery draws, and new promotion activities packaged into winning prizes are basically not designed from the perspective of user experience. Rather than saying that this design uses the idea of ​​gamification, it is better to say that it is "disguised as the name and visual style of the game to mislead users"

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