Gamification Webinar from TMN

I just attended Gary VanAntwerp’s web conference on gamification, hosted by the Training Magazine Network ( The .pdf from the presentation is available for download, and the recording should be available by tomorrow. There were a few audio glitches (groan, haven’t we all been there?), but otherwise it was good. Here’s my takeaway of the event.

What Is Gamification?

Dice have been around for thousands of years. Gamification is so new, I had to add it to my autocorrect dictionary when I typed the title of this page! Gamification is “the current application of using game mechanics and game thinking in a non-game environment to increase fun and engagement.” Visit the wiki at

The concept of incentivizing has been around for a long time. Whether store incentives (reward points) or beer pong, adding incentives entices people.

Why Gamification?

  1. People love games and competition. That could be why dice are so old.
  2. Google data predicts that gamification is in its infancy, and it is trending in 2012.
  3. People want a balance of choice and control, so they feel in charge and to feel it is easy to make a decision.

Game Design & Mechanics

To design a game in a non-game environment, you must think about the game design and the game mechanics.

Game Design

  • Perceived Affordance:  Perceiving to know about an object based on perceived knowledge of the object type… assuming we know how to use a button on a web page because we recognize a button shape, 3D button-like qualities, and other commonalities. We expect a button to act a certain way when we recognize it. When we aren’t sure it’s a button (or if it looks like a button and turns out to be something else), we don’t like it. It was found that Three Mile Island had bad design like this. A light that looked like it indicated a closed valve, but it indicated the status of the solenoid, so nobody diagnosed the problem was a valve stuck open for hours.
  • Flow:  You’re in the flow if a user is applying just enough skill to overcome just enough of a challenge. If they need too much skill, it builds anxiety.  If it’s not challenging enough, it’s boring. With the right flow, people lose their sense of time; they become immersed in game play.
  • Goals:  have them, and let people create their own goals.
  • Attention:  People have an average 7 minute span of attention. At that interval, build in something surprising or change direction.
  • Time:  Even with the attention thing, be wary of the total time and how people are able to use their time to play.
  • Risk:  Risk is good.  People like betting points, but be wary:  people also don’t like to be at the bottom of a leader board or to lose it all.
  • Social Interaction: People are coming to like this and expect it. It is a good opportunity to branch out to communication connections that are already available, like support chats, twitter feeds, and other modes to communicate that help personalize the experience.

Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are really the interactions taken from game play.

  • Signals & Feedback:  encouragement and help when needed; guidance
  • Keep Score:  People love to earn miles points, rewards points, stars, and more. Even the number of people in a webinar could be a trackable score with a goal or reward.  Badges are good for status.
  • Progression:  People love levels and reaching the next level. You can also use points or percentages towards a goal. One interesting example was LinkedIn.  They have the progress bar for completing your profile, but it starts at 10%, which could encourage you to continue what you have already started.
  • Quests or Challenges:  This will help build direction and still make a user feel that they are still in control.
  • Rewards (not cash): Status rewards, like a special title or a badge, provide bragging rights. Access, like unlocking a new tool or level, makes the experience feel private or special. Power, like unlocking the ability to change something or control something, provides a further sense of control. Stuff, like gifts or freebies for participating, are good for employee incentives.

Examples of Gamification

Thanks to Gary and for putting on another good web conference.  I’ve attended a few now, and they are usually really good.  I got a lot out of this one!


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