I wrote a post about Gamification last week and this week, I want to dive into more detail about how to apply gamification and game mechanics to a community site. It is interesting to see gamification now being applied in a marketing/website/community context, because many marketers and community managers have already been using these techniques to build engagement for several years. But I am more than willing to jump on the gamification bandwagon if it helps push the boundaries for other marketers and community managers.
In any case, there are many ways to incorporate game mechanics into a community and which ones are appropriate depend a lot on the make-up of your community audience and what the ultimate goals for the community are. In addition, my belief is that you need to gradually introduce new elements into a community and make sure that any new features are fully explained and documented. Otherwise, you could overwhelm your audience or get suboptimal uptake of the new features. Universe of Game Mechanics --
According to a definition in the Gamification Wiki,"Game Mechanics are constructs of rules and feedback loops intended to produce enjoyable gameplay." To break the definition into simpler terms, game mechanics let you build features that are fun and addictive. In my earlier gamification post, I provided a table that compared game mechanics to human desires. This is just a subset of possible types of game mechanics that could be incorporated into a community or website.
The Gamification Wiki actually lists 24 different game mechanics and SCVNGR identifies 47 unique game mechanics based on an article published on TechCrunch by Erick Schonfeld last year. SCVNGR is a mobile game with real world challenges -- and all SCVNGR employees are given the Game Dynamics Playbook and 'strongly' encouraged to memorize the deck of game mechanics cards. SCVNGR's games and challenges are built using combinations of these game mechanics. Both of these lists can be used to brainstorm on adding new features and elements to any website or community.
Community Audience Questions -- Before you can add gamification to your community, you need to really understand your community. Here are some probing questions that need to be answered before adding any new gamification features to a community:
Do you have an open or closed community? Is your community a professional, social, support, informational, hybrid or something else community? How do you want members to use the community? How many members do you have and how many do you add in a typical week or month? What is the typical member profile? How engaged are your community members? How do you measure engagement? What motivates your members to join, participate and stay engaged in the community? Do you have robust member profiles? Are member profiles searchable? Can members 'friend' or message other members? Do you have a way for members to add their Twitter or Facebook accounts to their profiles? How easy is it for members to share content on other sites?
Community Goals -- Likewise, you also want to make sure that the goals for your community are well understood and syndicated across your organization:
What goals are you trying to accomplish with the community? Can you measure them? Do you have any elements of gamification incorporated into your community today? Does your community platform support gamification elements? Can you track your measures in your community system?
Measures of Engagement for a Community -- There are 5 generally-accepted measures of engagement for a community:
The Gamification Backlash - Two Long Term Business Strategies by Michael Wu, Chief Analytical Scientist for Lithium
Gamification Research Network - The Gamification Research Network (GRN) is a communication hub for academic and industry researchers and students interested in studying the use of game elements in non-game contexts. The purpose of the GRN is to further research in the area by providing a repository of relevant people, projects, and publications, and by offering a shared space of discussion and publication.
Gamasutra - The art and business of making games