There are a few sessions that I've attended where I haven't had a chance to share or write an entry. (A lot of these sessions are close together in time, but far apart geographically.) So, I'm going to try to catch up with a few thoughts here.
Gamify and Socialize
Bing Gordon, an icon in the video gaming industry, talked about the current concept of gamification and socialization that is going on in the technical world. A lot of changes are going on in the video gaming world as people are moving to the Internet for interactive play. This isn't new. As long as there has been interconnectivity people have used it for gaming, beginning with things like chess by email, and online role playing games. Obviously, technology has added a lot to this equation and the gaming is much more intense and interactive. It's this interaction that captures a lot of imagination as companies and institutions seek ways to leverage the intensity which people apply to their gaming world that they don't necessarily experience in other activities.
What is good gamification, though? Why do people play games and what do they get out of them? What separates a good gaming experience that holds someone for a long time and one that is only temporarily engaging? The majority of qttendees for this session seemd to be in the gaming industry, so the questions were really pointed more at actual gaming rather than using gaming aspects in other applications, but I think the information is still applicable.
It's easy to see the appeal of social gaming for players. They are already connecting with their friends virtually to share information and conversation. It's natural to extend this into playing games. However, there is strong appeal for developers as well. It harkens back to the early days of game development when there weren't so many layers between the game developement and the finished product. Today, PC game coders have the same experience as many people who contribute to a film. They finish the game and then have to wait a year and a half to wait for everything to be painted, composed, voiced over, etc.. With social games there is a stronger connection with the audience... a lot more urgency.
Gordon said that trying to build games that not only run well on a server but also bring people together is a higher calling. I can also see how this would be appealing to any level of application development. So many times the developers are isolated from the actual usage and benefits their software provides. It becomes a list of features and defects that need to be addressed. It's very different when you see the value that you bring to somone's day by making their job easier or more effective, or that helps a customer do what they need with fewer complications.
One of the aspects of games is that the gamer becomes a stakeholder... they invest something and they receive something. Gordon pointed out that game developers are discovering what casino owners have known for years. Players need two currencies. In a casino the obvious one is cash, to be won or lost. However, there is the other currency of status and ammenities: free drinks, hotel upgrades, VIP lounges, etc. Games and gamified applications need this too. You may have encountered web sites that track your progress of using the site and then award you "badges" for your progress. Sometimes this can be fun and it helps confrim for the user that they are moving in the right direction with a product.
Something I would like in ths area is an application that recognized as I was getting more proficient with a product and told me that it was backing off the help suggestions,or making my most-needed functions more accessible. Games do this sort of thing. It would be nice for other tools to do it as well.
What other sorts of secondary currencies could you apply? I bet it will be fun to find out. I'm doing this exercise myself with developerWorks.
Gordon also reminded us all incentive systems can be gamed. You're not necessarily looking for perfection. Your goal is to make a long term social contract with your audience. Money might be part of that relationship, but the quest for monetization might become a burden that gets in the way. Your primary goal is to help train your audience into the behaviors that you want to encourage. (I know that sounds a little like training an animal.)
This is all interesting stuff and something that we all need to think about. Gotta run. More later.