We all want to belong. It’s a fact of life. It’s also a huge driver of how we interact online through social media. The Internet isn’t just an almost unfathomable resource of information and innovation, it’s also the greatest connector in the history of humanity. While that may sound dramatic, it’s also quite true.
Consider the numbers: Facebook has over 1 billion users. Twitter boasts 645 million.
And all of these users are doing mostly the same thing: interacting with other people and feeling like part of a community. It’s undeniable; humans love community.
Interestingly, this same need to belong translates to the way we interact with games, and consequently explains why gamification can be so powerful.
Like social media, games give us a chance to connect to other humans and share an experience that we all find meaningful. Throughout the evolution of games, people have always wanted to play with other people. The trope of a boy with a ball playing alone is one that never fails to evoke some immediate empathy.
So what does social media teach us about gamification? It shows us that our attraction to the social aspect of games remains consistent across digital technology. Let’s examine a couple of characteristics that overlap between social media and gamification.
Consider the status update. This seemingly commonplace function is actually the world’s most ubiquitous publishing platform, not to mention the least choosy. With very little external filtering involved, the status update gives us complete control over the message, which is both revolutionary (think Arab Spring), and annoying (think breakup rants).
Social media also lets us customize our profiles and avatars, shaping those digital personas to our every whim. This type of autonomy is common in social media and it translates to gamification. Modern games grant users the same control over customizing their avatar, and in advanced cases even the way in which they play the game. Because having such complete control over your environment is nearly impossible in your work or personal life, this type of autonomy is one of the most addictive properties of games.
Good gamification allows the user some degree of autonomy, thereby creating a connection between the user and gamification platform. This may be as simple as having a profile page that users can customize or as complex as allowing users some power of shaping the game itself.
When we have fun or create memories, they’re most often social experiences. No doubt many of your best memories include moments with your closest friends. The immediate nature of social media connects people around shared events, which then become shared experiences through community interaction.
Games are no different. Consider the massive communities that play Farmville, or the 27 million people that play League of Legends every day.
On a more micro level, making gamification a social experience will increase the likelihood of user adoption and make for a more enjoyable experience. Users will be able to share their accomplishments with friends, not to mention the overall experience.
Our need for recognition overlaps with both social media and gamification. The feedback we get on social media validates our contributions to the community as well as our personal work.
In gamification, points and badges are the most common form of recognition, though these mechanics can have a poor effect if lazily executed. Regardless, it’s undeniable that recognition is an essential game element.
One of the companies doing it best isPerkville. Serving mainly local business, Perkville makes creating loyalty programs easier with social gamification. When customers get a great deal, they can share it online with their friends, an action which Perkville’s platform then rewards with even more savings.
Now all that customer’s friends want to know how she got such a good deal, which lead to that user getting even more savings simply by boasting about her initial discount.
Social media and gamification share a lot of the same elements, which explains why they’re both so popular. Implementing some social elements will elevate a gamification platform into a gamification experience. And trust me, you want the latter.
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