We all love making engaging and useful things, for me it’s applications. A huge aspect of most applications is interacting with users, and encouraging those users to interact with you. It would be even better if the user could have a great time while using your application!
Not Making a Game
As much as we all would like to write SQL queries by running around a western town asking the bartender if he had seen the latest earthquake figures passing by recently, gamification is not about making a game at all. Gamification is about using concepts generally reserved for game development to enhance a normal everyday application.
Games are great at making time fly, everyone knows people who have fallen victim to a good games grip and accidentally stayed up till sunrise. Some of us may have even fallen victim ourselves.
The idea behind gamification is to bring this level of enjoyment to normal everyday applications.
Get me my Dopamine
The main trick of computer games (and everything we enjoy for a long period of time) is to generate dopamine. Dopamine is our brain’s internal reward mechanism. When we do something our intuition thinks is a good thing to be doing so it rewards us with a squirt of dopamine. Our brains love dopamine! after a while as we learn that doing a certain thing causes dopamine to be released we will feel like doing that thing more often.
If we can get our applications to get the brain to reward itself for using them, then our users will find themselves looking forward to the next time that have a need of it. This is the idea behind gamification.
Free food, drinks, bragging rights
One example of gamification concepts applied is the Air New Zealand AirPoints system which encourages you to fly with Air New Zealand by offering you little tasty rewards every time you do. Watching your Status points and Airpoints Dollars climb, tick, little squirt of dopamine. Drinking that “free” beer in the Koru Lounge because of your hard earned Airpoints Dollars? Yup, more dopamine. Have Elite frequent flyer status vs your friends Gold? Feels good huh? Dopamine.
Well, that’s the concept of gamification, keep an eye out for part 2 in this series where I will dive a little deeper with a few different strategies that we can use to engage our user communities a little better.
Timothy Gray – Code Conjurer
Coffee to Code