Achievement unlocked: Gamify Drupal community websites

Drupal is a popular free and open-source content management system that can be used for anything from personal blogs and simple sites to large community and forum sites. And now badges and points are coming to Drupal via support from Badgeville, a large gamification platform available for websites and online communities. This allows Drupal administrators to award customised site interactions such as posting, commenting and voting with points. It’s difficult to find how much the solution costs but according to a techcrunch post, the pricing of a Badgeville gamification solution starts at upwards of $2000/month. So it’s definitely aimed at the larger sites and communities.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first available add-on for Drupal websites that adds badges. An achievements module was released a while ago for Drupal that allows administrators to add achievements for particular interactions. The only difference with this new feature is that it is built and supported by Badgeville.

On a side note,  if you use WordPress instead (along with BuddyPress) then never fear! A free achievements plugin has been built by a dedicated developer as well.

Collect all the badges!

Taken on face value this seems like a bit of fun, administrators can now easily add badges and points into their sites for users to collect and gain. However the benefit of adding extrinsic reward elements like these to website is being questioned more and more. One recent article highlights the pitfalls of badges and points and their effect on audiences in terms of fatigue and a loyalty backlash when users realise they’re behaviour has “been manipulated with no personal gain”.

The two issues that I have with systems like these are firstly the focus is on the badges and points. Research has shown that these kind of extrinsic rewards can have a negative impact (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Also, as I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, this kind of design focus on reward systems alone lacks some serious fundamental elements that makes games fun to play. The second issue is that designing badges and choosing interactions to reward can be a difficult thing to make interesting. Games are engaging for a number of reasons, but one important part of games is that they provide challenges and obstacles to overcome. If a badge is rewarded for basic things like watching a video then this isn’t really a challenging task for the user. The design of these badges needs to be carefully considered and not slapped on to any interaction that the administrator wants to encourage.

Adding game elements like these might be good for a quick fix, to get some people to initially engage with the site, but there might be something else at play (pun totally intended) if your users aren’t engaging with your website.

Find out what your users want

Before considering the addition of badges and points to engage users it may be better to focus on finding any issues with the core service that exist. It can be cheap to open some polls, ask users for some feedback as to what they like or dislike about the site, and anything else they’d like to see added. Google Analytics can be integrated easily into websites (and it’s free) and this can give you some information on what people are being drawn to on the site, and what’s being neglected. You may even be able to talk to some users in person, or ask to watch them as they interact with the website.

If your core service is good and there is little else that can be improved without spending a fortune then it might be worthwhile to see what the addition of badges and points can add to your site. But make sure to use them wisely, sparingly and even consider using game evaluation techniques such as play testing in order to see if they enjoy the additions. Also I’m going to reiterate this again, but please don’t reward them for silly interactions. I swear if I get another badge for watching my first video on a site again…

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