People have fundamental needs and desires – for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism among others. These needs are universal, and cross generations, demographics, cultures and genders.

A large part of my research over the past few months on game mechanics has been around the psychology of achievements, appealing to one’s competitive ego and understanding two distinct personalities: incrementalists and completionists. I am in the process of building a gaming engine for a new project I’m working on that will ultimately serve as a framework for motivation without encouraging nonconstructive community behaviours (i.e. just getting the most points).  My goal is to educate our users with relevant advice based on their chosen career path, congratulate completion of learning modules and tasks, and ultimately, make “fun” a consequence of a successful learning experience where the outcome can fundamentally benefit their career.  Based on my research, and the fact that everyone is talking about gaming mechanics, I thought it would be worth while to share some of my thoughts on this topic.

Getting in the Game

Game mechanics is a reputable field of study that leverages the basic human desires for feedback, reward, and validation by engaging us in flow. The crux behind any effective gaming experience is the feeling that you’ve accomplished something or a sense of completion. With that being said, adding elements of gaming may considerably improve your customers’ overall brand experience and is also a great way to map and stimulate specific emotional behaviours.

It Starts with Interaction Design

Effective interaction designers strive to “create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond”. Great interaction design (IxD), is about finding the core of what motivates us, rewards us, and drives our passions. We instinctively feel compelled to do things that our friends are doing. We feel rewarded by approval. We are motivated by our own vanity.  No gaming application will ever have anywhere near as much power over our behaviour and outlook on the world as the software in our brains.  However, if applied correctly, game mechanics can make almost any interactive experience more compelling – but it’s ultimately up to the individual to choose to participate in that experience, or not.

Yes, Gaming is Mainstream

Ten percent of U.S/Canada Internet time is now spent on online games, according to Nielson NetView.  While social networking still reigns supreme at 43 percent, gaming leapfrogged to the number two spot {overtaking personal emailing} in online engagement.  Email dropped from 11.5 percent to 8.3 percent of user’s online time, while gaming showed an upward trend that is likely to continue.  The exponential growth of the gaming industry, as a powerful form of entertainment will continue to influence us, and
brands that use game mechanics wisely offer more than monetary entertainment – they can inspire, inform, enlighten and delight customers over the long haul.  They can turn average customers into loyal fans and transform loyal customers into brand evangelists.

Design an Experience

Right now, too many companies are building a bridge to nowhere with their games, or gaming elements (gamification APIs) simply because that’s the trendy thing to do.  Design an experience that will delight your users and use game mechanics to show them something useful that will add value and make their lives better – NOW THAT IMHO is how companies should consider getting into the game.

Want to learn more about Game Mechanics?

Check out these videos:

And these books:

Another good reference

SCVNGR’s Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck (click here to print your own flash cards based on SCVNGR’s model)