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July 28 2012

12:37

Badgeville brings gamification to Facebook, Twitter

CMSWire :: If you needed a few more reasons to spend hours on social media, gamification software maker Badgeville and social analytics provider PeopleBrowsr have created a solution that enables organizations to extend their gamification programs beyond their own applications and websites. The new features allow organizations to incentivize and reward users for their actions on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. There goes the rest of my day.

A report by Josette Rigsby, www.cmswire.com

May 03 2012

04:52

Kia gamified ads to push purchase intent and product awareness

BizReport :: Recently automotive brand Kia tapped SocialVibe to launch a gamified ad campaign for their Optima sedan. Targeting adults between ages 25 and 49, the campaign showed: ad completion rates of 95%; average 'plays' per user: 1.27; average time spent at 129 seconds per user; click-through rates of 19%, to Kia Optima site.

[Kristina Knight:] .. of even more importance, though, the campaign helped to improve both purchase intent and product awareness.

Continue to read Kristina Knight, www.bizreport.com

04:43

Likes? Tweets? Gamification: Turning a connection into interaction

Vator.TV :: Michael Wu is chief scientist, from Lithium.com. Wu has spent a fair amount of his career investigating the complex dynamics of the social Web and applying that to help businesses gain the most from the people that are already active online. While many businesses believe that any social connection is equal to interaction, Wu reminds us that they are not equal. Don't you have some LinkedIn or Facebook connections that you never interact with? Enough said.

[Michael Wu:] The idea behind gamification is really simple -- we all like to play. So how do we make a work more like a game ... we create a latent value in turning a connection into an interaction.

Continue to read Michael Wu, vator.tv

Tags: Gamification
04:36

Gamification to raise user engagement: Leverage user's common activity

Vator.TV :: While many businesses are fluttering about to engage their social audience in order to magically boost brand awareness and revenue, some entrepreneurs are saying that getting people to tweet and "like" you on Facebook isn't a whole lot of bang for your marketing bucks. On Tuesday, May 1, Vator brought together various gamification thought leaders to share insight on how gamification can benefit businesses when thoughtfully executed at the gathering Vator Spark.

Ranjith Kumaran, co -founder of YouSendIt.com and founder of PunchTab.com did some research and found out that social engagement only moves a very small number of people so you can't focus your entire brand outreach on something with such a small amount of effect. YouSendIt founder believes companies need pick 5 metrics before gamifying the business.

[Ranjith Kumaran:] When you are building a game to incentivize users for your company it is important to leverage things that are already a part of the user's common activity.

Continue to read Krystal Peak, vator.tv

Tags: Gamification

April 20 2012

09:13

Engage your readers: Gamification beyond badges and leaderboards

VatorNews :: Gamification has emerged as the latest fast-track solution to acquire, engage and retain users for any new mobile or Web application. The basic idea is that if you understand what motivates your users you can design an experience that selflessly guides the users towards your endgame - whatever that might be. Foursquare made gamification famous beyond the gaming community and start-up digerati when it introduced badges, mayorships and leaderboards to drive users to add locations and check-in.

Explained - Continue to read Per Håkansson, vator.tv

April 14 2012

11:10

A serious play: Why gamification can't be stopped

Mashable :: Since the beginning, the California-based company Bunchball has been at the emerging industry’s forefront and today works with companies including including Comcast, the Los Angeles Kings, Hasbro and Warner Bros. One of the company’s early hits came in 2007, when it created a gamified website for NBC’s The Office. The power of game mechanics to invest people in websites, shows, teams, companies and other properties is what Paharia says has fueled the rise of his company and others like it. But he says Bunchball’s road to success was rocky at first.

The power of games - Continue Sam Laird, mashable.com

Tags: Gamification
09:37

Fanplayr brings gamification to email marketing

Portfolio :: The gamification startup Fanplayr recently announced that it will be offering email-marketing company Constant Contact clients the ability to set up game features in their email-marketing campaigns in less than 20 minutes, with no IT expertise required. A few months ago, Constant Contact penned a similar integration deal with Magmito, which lets businesses create mobile apps.

Continue to read Teresa Novellino, www.portfolio.com

Tags: Gamification

July 29 2011

07:27

Engage, don't bore your readers - "Gamification" of routine tasks and everyday life

mashable :: Can life, and all the menial or routine tasks that come with it, be transformed through game mechanics into an engaging, social and fun recreational activity? Such is the idea behind the emerging trend of “gamification.” Gamification is most often defined as the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. The term also suggests the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences.

Jennifer Van Grove takes a deeper look at the term, the trend, the mechanics and the real world implications of Gamification.

Continue to read Jennifer Van Grove, mashable.com

February 02 2011

18:07

Why Huffington Post's 'Predict the News' Game Is No Galaga

Fellow Knight News Challenge winner Chris O'Brien recently posted on this site about "gamifying" the news. The idea behind the  movement O'Brien is speaking of, which Brad Flora touched on in another recent Idea Lab post, involves adding incentives -- pop-up achievements for tasks completed, progress bars to fill, badges to display, online leaderboards for score comparison, and virtual goods -- to activities. The idea is to reward repeat patronage and reframe participation as if it's like a playing a game.

A Brief History of Videogame Scoring

Videogames have long used scores to track player performance. In 1976, Sea Wolf took cues from pinball tables and added score keeping and a high score to incentivize multiple plays. The wildly successful Space Invaders (1978) helped popularize this method of recording expertise all over the country. Exidy's Star Fire (1979) took this one step forward and added the ability for players to enter their initials to link a high score with a name. The high score gave players both a measurable goal to strive for and a point of performance comparison.

Achieving a good score in a game was not just a measure of how long a play session lasted, as it was possible to more efficiently earn points through various strategies. And because there were no "continues," a high score wasn't a measure of how many quarters were spent to participate. A good score measured understanding.

Earning a good score in Galaga is dependent upon a number of factors. A enemy diving from the formation is worth more than a stationary enemy. A diving Boss Galaga ship with two escorts is worth twice as much as with one escort. A player who has their fighter purposely captured by the tractor beam of a Boss Galaga and successfully frees it can play with two ships on screen side-by-side, doubling firepower. Having double firepower, however, means doubling the area of potential collisions with enemy ships. Racking up points in Galaga requires the player understand the rules that determine how the game is scored.

Now imagine a game like Galaga or Space Invaders with rows of enemies at the top of the screen and a space ship at the bottom firing up. Except that in this hypothetical game, the enemies don't move. Each successfully destroyed ship earns 100 points and there is no time limit. The High Score at the top center of the screen reads 30,000. Let's say that each enemy takes on average two seconds to kill. All that is required to get the high score in this game is to play for ten minutes (30,000/100 = 300 ships at 2 seconds each). It has all the trappings of a game -- buttons, a joystick, spaceship, alien forces, and a high score -- but it asks nothing of you but participation.

Gaming The News

A few months ago the Huffington Post launched a self-described "social news service" called Predict the News. As you can guess from the name, the Huffington Post's polls are centered on sharing predictions such as, "Will Sarah Palin run for president in 2012?" To play, users sign up for an account or log in with a service like Facebook, Twitter, or Google, and respond to a question accompanying an article. Most questions are either yes or no responses like the above, or they involve selecting an option from a list of known outcomes. Points are awarded after the event has passed.

When ImpactGames launched Play the News, a prediction game we discuss at length in the Platforms chapter of Newsgames: Journalism at Play, they set out to make the act of playing informative. Making a prediction was not about choosing what kind of dress Kate Middleton would wear; it was about considering the outcomes of complex situations based on stakeholders. The game rewarded extended research and awarded points based on analytical thinking. After all, it's much harder to guess the outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict than if Apple will release a new iPad in Q1 2011.

The difference between these two prediction games should be apparent. Though they both reward players with points to be shared on an online leaderboard, Play the News addresses complex issues and getting its "high score" is based on understanding. Predict the News asks for participation and getting the "high score" is more luck than skill. Play the News is like Galaga, while Predict the News is like our hypothetical everybody-wins space shooter.

Thinking about how to use so-called game mechanics to drive user engagement is part of the business side of a news organization. But the business shouldn't drive journalism -- journalism should drive the business. Helping readers, viewers, listeners, and players understand the news should be the goal of journalism. There is nothing inherently wrong with incentivizing news reading with a scoring mechanism, but we should take care to keep journalistic values in mind when building the future apparatus of news.

January 19 2011

15:06

How Can We 'Gamify' the News Experience?

One of the biggest emerging conversations over the past year in Silicon Valley is around "gamification." Simply put, this is the idea of applying game mechanics, particularly those found in videogames, to all sorts of non-game experiences.

After following this conversation for many months, I've come to believe that over the next decade gamification will profoundly reshape the way we experience the web, to the same degree that social media and networks redefined the web last decade. To that end, I've been thinking in the broadest terms what that could and should mean for how we can reinvent digital news.

To carry this thinking forward, I'm announcing the launch of a new project: NewstopiaVille. The goal is to explore how game mechanics can be applied to reinvent the way we produce, consume and interact with news. My hope is that by thinking as ambitiously as possible about this idea, I can accomplish two things.

First, I want to get the concept of gamification on the radar on every news organization so that it becomes a central part of their discussions as they continue to push into digital media.

Second, I want to build a prototype of a fully gamified news experience. There won't be a single solution that makes sense for every news organization. But I'm hoping to demonstrate the possibilities to inspire others to pursue their own concepts in this area.

To be clear, all I have at this point is what I think is a big idea. I don't have any funding. I don't have a demo. And I don't stand here pretending to be an expert in the realm of videogames. In fact, until fairly recently, I wouldn't have even thought of myself as a gamer. That has changed as my own kids have plunged into videogames, bringing me along with them.

Let me start by elaborating on what I see happening with gamification.

About Gamification

Even if the term is new to you, the elements are probably not. Gamification suggests features like leaderboards, progress bars, rewards, badges, and virtual goods. Now that we live in a time where the majority of people play videogames of some kind, often many hours each week, it's fair to say that these kind of features have become widely familiar.

What has begun to change in the past year or so is the growing push to take these common elements out of the videogame experience and incorporate them into sites across the web. That's been driven in no small part by the explosive success of social games like FarmVille by Zynga. But it's also being pushed by a generation of developers raised on videogames, which have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment.

While it's easy to dismiss some of these games as trivial, in fact, they succeed because they take sophisticated approaches to tapping into fundamental human psychology. Developers use those lessons to build experiences that deliberately guide people to perform tasks and behave in specific ways.

Gamification represents a powerful intersection between videogames and social networking. Developers have seen the deep level of engagement these games create. And they have witnessed how games built around cooperative, non-competitive structures have gained a mass appeal.

That has led to a growing number of developers asking, "If I can get someone to spend hours harvesting virtual crops and feeding digital sheep, is there a way to take those same dynamics and get people to do something even more meaningful?"

Virtual Goods

Though not a gamer, I got started on this line of thinking about a year ago with the subject of virtual goods. I was staggered that people were willing to spend billions of dollars on virtual goods. In fact, I wrote about this idea last year when I asked, "Why will people spend $1 to send you a virtual beer on Facebook, but not to read a news story online?"

The reason had to do with the emotional context around those goods. But while I felt news organizations should be thinking about virtual goods, I realized that this was too limiting in isolation. The power of virtual goods comes in the context of an experience. I needed to think more broadly, and that led me into conversations about gamification.

The trap one can fall into is with gamification is to break it down into various tools and try to use a grab-bag approach. Stick a leaderboard here, a few badges there, and believe you've "gamified" your website. But used in that way, these tools will have minimal effect.

The reasons the best videogames succeed is because they offer an all-encompassing experience. They leave players with a profound sense of happiness by allowing them to accomplish a series of goals. And they tap into a central desire to do something with meaning, to be a part of something larger than yourself when you team up with others to accomplish shared goals.

Think about that: A desire to be part of something bigger, and to do tasks that are meaningful. Those are core, shared values that motivate the very best journalists I've known in the most successful newsrooms.

The concept of game mechanics is not entirely new in the context of news. I can recall several years ago talking to news executives who were fascinated with Digg and wanted to understand how game theory could help them. The problem comes with focusing too narrowly on the tools, like Digg's leaderboard. To really leverage the potential of gamification, it has to be central to the entire structure of the news experience.

CityVille Lessons

In that regard, I can imagine any number of areas where game mechanics might address some of the most important and challenging questions facing news organizations:

  • How do we improve commenting?
  • How do we get more people to participate in creation and processing of news and information?
  • How do we think differently about monetization?

Let me just give one example related to the last question. In recent weeks, I've been playing CityVille, the latest game from Zynga. The goal is to construct a city by accomplishing a series of tasks, like harvesting crops to supply stores, which then earn you coins. It's free to play and each time you begin, you have a set amount of energy that allows you to accomplish about 30 tasks. Once you run out of energy, you have a few choices.

First, you can take a break and come back later when your energy builds back up.

Second, you can ask your friends in the game to send you free gifts of energy that allow you to keep playing. This rewards you for being super social, and building up a big network of friends that you've helped accomplish other tasks.

Third, you can spend real money to purchase energy. You can do this by buying Facebook credits, or "buying" CityVille cash which you can then spend in the game to buy energy. The money and the credits are not one-to-one. So $2 of real money gets you $15 of CityVille money. This is an important psychological break that makes people feel like this is a trivial expense to feed their desire to keep playing.

Applying It to News

Think about how that could work at a news site that uses some kind of metered revenue model. Someone who is a free member gets to do 30 things: Read an article, post a comment, contribute to a news task. When they run out of credits, they could ask their network for more credits. Or, they could buy some more.

The ability to induce someone to do this would rest on the success of the larger experience a gamified site has created.

Let me also pause here to make another distinction. I consider this project to be distinct from the idea of "newsgames." While there are certainly similar dynamics, I think of them as complimentary.

For me, newsgames represent a way to reinvent storytelling. It is a contained object. (Here's a broader history of newsgames.)

Gamification is about bringing game mechanics to the entire platform and experience of news and information.

These two concepts certainly can and should fit together. I've thought about this relationship as I've watched my son play his favorite online game, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures. In the game, a player creates an avatar, usually a Jedi, who wanders around the virtual world. At times, he enters various rooms where he plays more specific games, such as a snow speeder chase.

Gamification would be about shaping the entire news experience for someone. At times, as they move around that gamified news platform, perhaps there would be rooms or spaces where they enter to play more specific newsgames. That would be one of many tasks that might allow them to earn rewards, or build their reputation or earn experience points.

Getting Started

But the question, then, is where to start? As I said before, it would be a mistake to begin by focusing on the various tools, the technology, or the protocols. Figuring out which of these to use would be something that would come at the end of the design process, not at the start.

Where I want to start is by asking the larger questions that I think are critical to the success of any game: What is the goal? What is the mission? What is the experience we want people to have?

From there comes a longer list of questions about what exactly we want people to do. What are their motivations? How do we reward them? How do we keep them moving through the game? What are the levels and rewards?

Next Steps

My next step: In the coming months, I'm going to accelerate my personal research and interviewing in this area. This coming week, I'll be attending the first ever Gamification Summit in San Francisco, and next month I'll be at the Game Developer's Conference.

I'll be blogging along the way at NewstopiaVille.com to share my thoughts and to hopefully get lots of feedback. Most importantly, by making this a public discussion, I'm hoping this will bring folks forward who want to take these ideas further.

In a few months, I'll try to gather these folks together for a more focused discussion. I'm thinking this might take the form of a meetup/bar camp/or hackathon. The goal being to produce something tangible that can test some of the ideas that have been formulated, and to figure out what resources would be needed to create a real prototype or demo.

As I said, I don't pretend to have all the answers. Just a serious curiosity driven by the belief that I think this is potentially a really big idea.

If you agree, then I hope you'll help me.

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