Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps
By Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham
(O’Reilly, $24.99, paperback; $9.99, Kindle)
Many companies which sell us products and services are rushing to try to adapt successful videogame strategies to their sales techniques.
This well-written and adequately illustrated book encourages companies to view consumers as “players” rather than “customers” or “users.” In the co-authors’ view: “By thinking of our clients as players, we shift our frame of mind toward their engagement with our products and services. Rather than looking at the immediacy of a single financial transaction, we are considering a long-term and symbiotic union wrapped in a ribbon of fun.”
“Gamification,” the writers emphasize, “…is the marketing buzzword of our time,” and it “can mean different things to different people.”
In their book, it means “the design strategy and tactics you need to integrate game mechanics into any kind of consumer-facing website or mobile app.”
The co-authors also state that their overall goal is “to help demystify some of the core concepts of game design as they apply to business” and that they have structured their book from “the perspective of what a marketer, product manager, or strategist would want to know.”
They define game mechanics as “the tools used to create games,” and game dynamics as “how players interact with game experiences.”
The two writers, both gamification experts, stress that gamification cannot fix core problems within a business. And bad products or products that don’t fit well into a particular market will not get a sales boost if game mechanics and game design are applied to sales campaigns. One hypothetical example they cite is trying to create “a world where your consumer’s avatar is chasing gremlins with an AK-47 in order to save the spaghetti sauce your company is trying to sell in outer space.”
Gamification by Design is not about showing you how to create actual games. Instead, it is more about using gamification to enhance customer engagement and loyalty to your products or services.
The chapter line-up shows the scope of this 182-page book:
- Chapter 1: Foundations
- Chapter 2: Player Motivation
- Chapter 3: Game Mechanics: Designing for Engagement (Part I)
- Chapter 4: Game Mechanics: Designing for Engagement (Part II)
- Chapter 5: Game Mechanics and Dynamics in Greater Depth
- Chapter 6: Gamification Case Studies
- Chapter 7: Tutorial: Coding Basic Game Mechanics
- Chapter 8: Tutorial: Using an Instant Gamification Platform
- Index (12 pages)
Once the basic game mechanics and structures are introduced, the reader is presented with more information on how “[p]oints, badges, levels, leader-boards, challenges, and rewards can be remixed in limitless ways to create a spectrum of experiences.” And the book moves into deeper discussions of game mechanics and game dynamics.
Feedback, for example, is the process of “returning information to players and informing them of where they are at the present time, ideally against a continuum of progress.” In the toolbox of game mechanics, “[f]eedback loops are essential parts of all games, and they are seen most frequently in the interplay between scores and levels. As scores increase during an experience, they provide clear and unambiguous feedback to the player that she is heading in the ‘right’ direction.”
The book includes case studies focusing successful use of gamification by Yahoo!, Nike and Quora. It also offers up some examples of bad efforts at gamifying a website.
While Gamification by Design keeps its focus away from actually designing and creating games, it does give the reader the architecture and code needed to gamify a basic consumer site. It also shows how to use “mainstream APIs [application programming interfaces] from Badgeville,”
Noting that badges have motivated military warriors and Boy Scouts for hundreds of years, the co-authors contend that offering electronic badges as rewards and status symbols on websites “are [for game designers] an excellent way to encourage social promotion of their products and services. Badges also mark the completion of goals and the steady progress of play within the system.”
This is a fine standalone book, but it also can be used in conjunction with O’Reilley’s Gamification Master Class and with “the supplemental videos, exercises, challenges, and resources available at http://www.GamificationU.com.”