Real Life Gamification: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and group behavior in online communities and social networks.
Michael was voted a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine for his work on predictive social analytics and its application to Social CRM.He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere's Building Community blog and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.
Okay, I think people are probably a little overloaded from the engagement data and my mini-series on Facebook engagement. I know because my last article has relatively low page view and has only gotten one kudo. So I am going to take a break from Facebook engagement today and use this opportunity to return to my gamification series, which is long overdue.
As I promised, there will be a few more articles on this topic before I wrap up the gamification series. I apologize for the circuitous route in wrapping this up! There are just so many interesting topics that I’d like to cover and so little time for me to write about them.
In my previous gamification post, I showed you one way in which you can gamify enterprise software to drive adoption. However, gamification can be applied to many aspects of our lives: health/fitness, good will/volunteerism, education, work, and solving some of the most challenging problem facing our society today. So, I’d like to apply the framework we’ve learned to analyze three gamification strategies that have been implemented in different areas of our lives. Some of these are successful, yet some are doom to fail, and I’ll attempt to explain why.
The Good: Speed Camera Lottery
The speed camera lottery was an attempt to gamify people’s good driving behavior (i.e. obeying the speed limit law). As with any speed camera, it takes photos of speeders, and fines them. But this camera also takes photo of drivers who obey the speed limit and keeps a record of these good drivers. The interesting twist to this speed camera is that the total collected fines from the speeders contribute to a pot, which can be won in the form of a lottery by the good drivers at the end of the month.
So what are the three factors from the Fogg’s Behavior Model?
- Motivation: Winning the lottery. The driver must want to win; otherwise, this wouldn’t work because there would be no motivation
- Ability: The drivers is in control of the car and certainly has the ability slow down
- Trigger: The speed camera lottery sign
Is there a temporal convergence of the three factors? Yes, definitely. Because a driver wants to win the lottery, and at the moment when he saw the trigger (i.e. the lottery sign), he is driving and has the ability to slow down the car. So this is a good gamification that is going to work. The result confirmed our analysis. The average speed before gamification was 32 km/h, but it was reduced to 25 km/h after implementing the speed camera lottery.
The Bad: Golf Game for Lead Assignment
A large enterprise (whose name I will not reveal here) is trying to gamify their sales executives’ lead assignment behavior because they often fail to assign leads to their sales reps. Their gamification strategy is to develop a golf game on the iPhone/iPad that uses the tilt interface to roll golf balls (representing new leads) into holes (representing their sales reps). The idea is that as they play this game, which most of their sales executives will find entertaining since many of them like golf, they will be assigning leads at the same time.
The action this enterprise is trying to gamify is lead assignment, but what are the three factors necessary to drive this action?
- Motivation: Playing a fun game of golf on the iPhone or iPad
- Ability: This game actually slows down the lead assignment process and makes it less efficient. The task of assigning a lead to a rep normally takes only a few seconds, but it may take minutes now because sales execs need to roll the ball into the a hole by tilting the mobile device. Consequently, this game increases the amount of time (which is a scarce resource) needed to assign a lead. Conversely, it decreases the ability of the sales execs to do the task (i.e. assign leads)
- Trigger: There is a notification system that periodically reminds the sales execs to play the golf game when there are new leads
Since the sales executives will actually have less ability to do the task, this strategy won’t even have all three factors needed to drive the gamified action. Obviously, there can’t be any temporal convergence if one of the factors is missing. So this gamification strategy is doom to fail. It may work for a short due to the novelty effect, but it is not an effective gamification, and it is not going work after the “honeymoon period” is over.
I must emphasize that gamification is not a game, and it is not about turning some boring tasks into a game. In fact, simply putting a game on top of a boring task is generally a very bad way to do gamification. As we saw from this example, it usually doesn’t work.
The Ugly: Gamifying Store Check-ins at GAP
I heard this example from Seth Priebatsch at SxSW Interactiveearlier this year. In order to gamify consumers’ check-in behavior, GAP is giving consumers a chance to win a free pair of jeans when they check-in to GAP via the Local Deals Feature on Facebook Places. They leveraged the appointment game dynamics by making this a one-day-only event from 10am to 9pm on Nov 5th, 2010. To limit cost, they are only giving away 10,000 pairs of jeans.
The action GAP tries to gamify is check-in, but do the consumers have all three factors necessary to drive this action?
- Motivation: Winning a pair of free jeans
- Ability: Not all consumers use Facebook Places or have a smartphone. However, if GAP only wants to gamify check-in for smartphone owners who also use Facebook Places, then sure, they have the ability to check-in
- Trigger: The appointment dynamics has a built-in trigger (i.e. the appointment), which prompts consumers to check-in before “time’s up” at 9pm
What about the temporal convergence? Yes it exists, but only until they run out of jeans or the time limit is up. As soon as a consumer finds out that the 10,000th pair of jeans is gone, there is no more motivation for them to check-in. So they stop checking in. Thus, even if GAP only wanted their target audience (i.e. iPhone owners who use Facebook Places) to check-in during the appointment period, it will only be effective when there are free jeans. Clearly, this is not going to work after the campaign, and that is precisely what we saw: few people continue to check-in to GAP afterwards.
So I can’t say this is a very good strategy for gamifying check-ins. Furthermore, most consumers probably want the free pair of jeans much more than they are interested in checking in. So they will tend to focus too much of their motivation on the reward rather than the gamified activity (i.e. checking in). When this happens, consumer often start gaming (or cheating) the gamification system to get the reward. And it will eventually lead to the moral hazard of game play, where the reward becomes the sole motivation for consumer to check-in. This may not sound so bad, but it is a serious problem because when there isn’t any reward, like free jeans, people will no longer have any motivation to check in anymore.
Today, we applied the behavioral framework that we’ve learned to analyze three examples of gamification in the real world. This framework checks for the presence of motivation, ability, and trigger, and their temporal convergence. With this framework, we can evaluate the effectiveness of any gamification strategy. If you missed the earlier posts that describe this framework, now is a good time to review them.
- Gamification from a Company of Pro Gamers
- The Magic Potion of Game Dynamics
- Psychology 101: Motivation for Gamificators
- Simplicity Counts! Even in Gamification
- The Final Touch: Trigger and Gamify
Alright, let’s discuss some real life gamification. If you have any example that you like to share or like me to walk through with you, please let me know. Again, comments and suggestions are always welcome. For next time, I will gauge your interest to see whether I should continue writing about gamification, return to Facebook Engagement, or talk about something new.
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