Trendwatching: Driving engagement through gamification, 4/14/11

Whether you like it or not, gamification is hot, hot, hot.  The tech research firm Gartner released a report that says over half of companies that want to drive innovation will be gamified by 2015 -- and that in three years, gamified services for consumer goods marketing/customer retention will become as important as Facebook, Amazon or eBay.  Gartner laid out four ways of driving engagement through gamification:

1. Accelerated feedback cycles. In the real world, feedback loops are slow (e.g., annual performance appraisals) with long periods between milestones. Gamification increases the velocity of feedback loops to maintain engagement.

2. Clear goals and rules of play. In the real world, where goals are fuzzy and rules selectively applied, gamification provides clear goals and well-defined rules of play to ensure players feel empowered to achieve goals.

3. A compelling narrative. While real-world activities are rarely compelling, gamification builds a narrative that engages players to participate and achieve the goals of the activity.

4. Tasks that are challenging but achievable. While there is no shortage of challenges in the real world, they tend to be large and long-term. Gamification provides many short-term, achievable goals to maintain engagement."

This whole 'gamification is a big deal' message will be explored further at the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit 2011, May 9-10 in London and June 22-23 in San Diego, CA. For a more hands-on experience, you can also attend one of Gabe Zichermann's recently announced Gamification mini-summits which will take place in several cities starting in May.


Commentary: Gamepocalypse or Gametopia?, 2/18/11

"2011 will be the year of gamification," says Gabe Zichermann. [He] sees great potential for applying gamification within the Attractions Industry. The idea is that increased engagement ultimately drives revenue. Gamification can produce a series of user interactions that span the 98% of time they are not at an attraction, building interest and excitement. Loyalty Programs have historically served some of this role but are quickly becoming subsumed by gamification -- a strategy that rewards people for their loyalty generally without giving away free stuff (like admissions).  In fact, the idea would be to generate more revenue from the most engaged users, rather than less.  Dave Cobb also believes that visitor attractions can reap benefits from looking at gamification: "It would be amazing to be able to build an entertainment experience that starts in the real world, continues online after they leave, and then picks up again when they return. With the right experience, that can create lasting memories and long-term guest loyalty."  For some the vision of the future where we are increasingly monitored and rewarded for "good" behaviour conjures up images of Big Brother.  Jesse Schell has coined a phrase for a world where the unethical roll out of monitoring devices and game mechanics creates a game-powered surveillance prison: "Gamepocalypse".    On the other hand gamification could just make our lives more fun by turning work into play.  But what if we don't want to play?  It seems unlikely.  Gamers no longer conform to the stereotypical image of spotty teenage boys cocooned in their rooms.  The average age is 35 with a gender breakdown of 60/40 male to female.   Around 40% of American adults are regular gamers.


Commentary: The next new thing: Gamification at museums

Judith H. Dobrzynski, ArtsJournal blog Real Clear Arts, 4/26/11

[O]ne way museums are trying to engage people [is] gamification, also known by techies as "funware." The practice, which turns non-game activities into games, is rampant on sites like Facebook and in the commercial world. In these games, participant rack up points, or achieve levels, or earn fake money, or compete against themselves or others, and so on. (Think "Farmville.")   I am not much of a game-player (and never online), but I confess that a few years ago, when I was invited to participate in solving a mystery at the Metropolitan Museum, for which the more you knew about art, the better you'd be at finding the culprit, I said yes.  Some years ago, the late Thomas Hoving published a book of art games, Master Pieces: The Curator's Game, which has now been turned into an app for the iPhone and iPad.  Last summer, nine Smithsonian Institution museums (including the Hirshhorn and the Freer-Sackler) cooperated in a game called goSmithsonian Trek, which could be played from any iPhone or Android phone.  The point: gamification of museums is starting to happen: even current non-gamers might fall for gamification, and that might help museums win new audiences.  I'm calling attention to gamification now for a couple of reasons:

  1. It seems bound to happen at museums, but I hope art museums don't spend too many resources on it, for now. 
  2. There's a lot to learn about gamification before that. 
  3. Let's hope that museum games truly center on the art, and are a learning experience as well as rewarding fun. 
  4. If possible, museums ought to share what they're learning about gamification.

Competing with big games, developed by big developers, is bound to be expensive.


FROM TC: Elizabeth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums added a comment to this blog post:  Dr. McGonigal gave a lecture on applying the principles of games design to the museum experience for the Center for the Future of Museums a couple of years ago. Go to the CFM website to access her slides, a video clip, transcript of the webcast and a downloadable discussion guide on museums and gaming. (AAM members can access a recording of the lecture.)  There is a trend towards the use of games in museums, in response to an increased desire on the part of the public for participatory experiences. Also, its fun. So we're covering games and games-design in museums in the CFM Blog.  You can find the relevant entries by selecting gaming or gaming;arg in the tag cloud.


Commentary: Did Internet games kill your mom's favorite soap opera?

Cord Jefferson, Good magazine, 4/26/11

For decades one of the go-to sources of entertainment for bored housewives was the soap opera, those saccharine, melodramatic TV shows your grandmother may very well call "her stories." Recently, however, the soap opera has taken a nosedive, with three of the longest running of the sappy programs -- As the World Turns, All My Children, and One Life to Live -- getting canceled within months of each other, leaving just four soap operas left on the air.  But what killed the soap opera? Certainly more women leaving home for the workplace sapped a big part of the shows' core audience. But that transition started decades ago, and soaps have continued to thrive until recently. So what was the final nail in the coffin?  According to a new piece in AdWeek, there's an inverse correlation between the popularity of internet games like FarmVille and CityVille and the popularity of soap operas. The numbers:

When Zynga -- publisher of massively popular Facebook games such as FarmVille and CityVille -- arrived on the scene in 2007, both All My Children and One Life to Live were averaging a 1.9 rating among women 25-54. By 2011 the two shows were averaging 1.3 and 1.4 ratings respectively in that key viewer group. The drop is even steeper for other demographics. Meanwhile, by April 2009, Zynga was reaching 40 million monthly active players on Facebook. These days, the game has over 47 million players each month while the more recent hit, CityVille, attracts a staggering 88 million active participants.

The theory is that Facebook games allow stay-at-home moms to interact with actual friends, thus killing their desire to "engage" in a relationship with TV characters. "I grew up on Susan Lucci," Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of a social video campaign company, told AdWeek, referencing All My Children's biggest star, "but Susan Lucci doesn't talk back to me." 

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