Improv skills lead to success

Gamification: Don’t Forget the Fun

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My previous set of posts described elements of gamification (such as meaningful choices and conflict) and how to incorporate them into business and improv. Kevin Werbach and his coauthor Dan Hunter also identify six steps to gamification (For the Win, p. 86), which I think provide an excellent framework for business and theatrical endeavors. I just examined how you can devise activity cycles for user interactions. In this post, I’ll talk about the ever-elusive concept of fun.

As a quick review, the authors’ six D’s are:

  • Define business objectives
  • Delineate target behaviors
  • Describe your players
  • Devise activity cycles
  • Don’t forget the fun!
  • Deploy the appropriate tools

What is fun? Dictionaries tell us it’s a sense of enjoyment or pleasure, which is a straightforward enough definition. When you gamify a business or personal process, such as eating healthfully or completing daily assigned tasks, you want to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Designing for fun isn’t easy, so my best recommendation is to look for best practices in the industry, visit as many gamified websites as you can, and scour the literature for every example you can find. Many companies have gone before you, so you should do everything possible to learn from their successes and failures. The one hint I can give is that you should acknowledge your players’ actions. Congratulate them and make them feel good about what they’ve accomplished. That step might not seem like fun, but it rewards the player’s action and helps establish that undertaking the desired activity creates a positive reaction.

Always bear in mind that you have different types of players with different goals, whether to explore the world or to specialize in an area and unlock achievements as quickly as they can. You might consider displaying different congratulatory messages for different types of players.

Like all designing, designing for fun is an iterative process. After you implement your system, monitor player activities and feedback to see what you can do differently. Buy key players coffee and ask why they like what they’re doing, how they encourage their friends and coworkers, or why they stopped playing. Every bit of information you capture will help you make your system more rewarding.

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