Playful interactions on Mailchimp

So I send out a weekly gamification newsletter using Mailchimp and recently I’ve noticed they’ve added some playful changes to the process. What’s interesting about these changes is that they also subtly persuade you to send a better newsletter each week.

Push the big red button

You’ve created your newsletter, you’re ready to send, so you press the send campaign button and you’re presented with the following screen…


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A brief history of gamification

2013! Where did you come from? Oh hey and it’s nearly February as well… Okay, well I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to take a brief look at gamification over the last few years and see how it’s evolved (or levelled up?). Since then it really has become the popular kid at school, taking off in 2010, becoming a huge buzzword in 2011, getting some ridiculous seed funding (I’m looking at you Badgeville) in 2012, and now in 2013 (apparently the year of gamification, sorry snake),  it’s interesting to see how the term and concept continues to change. This blog post takes a quick look at the history of the term and what we might expect from it in the future.

Here’s a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) for those of you who just want an overview:

  • Gamification describes the framing an activity like a game to make it more motivating. The concept of gamification isn’t new, but the term describing it is.
  • 2002/2003: The term was apparently first used to describe Nick Pelling’s work
  • 2008: The first documented use of the term gameification was used in a blog post by Bret Terrill
  • 2009: Foursquare released and the gamification “blueprint” of badges, leaderboards and points is born.
  • 2011: The term becomes really popular. It’s added to Gartner’s hype cycle.
  • 2012: People become dubious about gamification. Gartner release another post saying a large number of gamified application will fail by 2014.
  • 2013: Foursquare announces it’s phasing out the gamification elements

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Presentations at OZCHI 2012

I ran another study this year looking at the use of a gamified mobile event application for university orientation. I’ll be sharing a paper highlighting the results of the study at the OZCHI conference in Melbourne at the end of this month.

Along with this paper I’ll also be presenting a couple of other short papers I co-authored and participating in the Play in Unconventional Places workshop on the Monday.

I’ll make sure to post a link to slides and to the papers once they’ve been published. If you have any questions about the research, conference or publications then contact me.

The games we play [video]

Here’s a neat little video on the little games that we may often play subconsciously while waiting, bored and just filling time.

It’s interesting, I remember playing a similar game in the car when I was little except I would face forward watching the road ahead of us. As we drove I would imagine the car launching into the air to avoid any of the road cast in shadow and then landing again on the sunny parts to recharge it’s jump power.

The video shows how we may often turn to play and games to fill time, and how many of us may create very similar games in similar contexts. Also to me it shows we are all game designers to some extent, even if we don’t realise it.

Defining gamification – new definition by Huotari and Hamari

Kai Huotari and Juho Hamari have just co-authored a new paper, presented at the MindTrek 2012 conference, that provides a new definition for gamification from a service marketing perspective.

They define gamification as “a process of enhancing a service with affordances for gameful experiences in order to support user’s overall value creation“.

They argue that the previous definition by Deterding et al. (2011) highlights that “only non-games can be gamified” which has issues due to service desingers having difficulties identifying exactly what a non-game context is because “the existence of a game is dependent on the subjective perception of the player/user”.  Where past definitions are based on the use of game elements, this new definition emphasises the goal of gamification rather than the methods and it’s relation to previous service marketing research.

The definition has already spurred some interesting discussion on the Gamification Research Network mailing list, both praise and criticism.

You can read more the new definition and access the paper from here:

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.

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Blurring the boundaries of the magic circle [video]

Listen up all you gamification nerds, if you haven’t seen this video you should definitely take 8 minutes to watch it.

Apart from it’s beautiful visuals, it is totally creepy and raises some important questions around the ethics of merging games and real life. Traditionally games have been defined as closed, formal systems that are entered wilfully by players (Costikyan, 2002; Avedon & Sutton-Smith, 1971). Generally there is this idea of a boundary that exists at the edge of the game called the magic circle (Huizinga, 1950). When we are in the magic circle, playing the game we can have different thoughts, feelings and values than when we are out of the game (Schell, 2008). However, when we start using technology Continue reading Blurring the boundaries of the magic circle

Mobile Apps, Sensors and Gamification

Oh boy do I have a lot of mobile apps, I just had a look at the home screen of my iPhone and realised I’ve got 7 pages of apps there. I have to admit I probably only use a quarter of them on a regular basis, but the apps that I use regularly are ones that do something unique that often can’t be quite replicated on a desktop computer in the same way. Take for example Sleep Cycle, it’s an alarm clock app that measures my sleep patterns using the accelerometer (and it’s also telling me my average sleep time is 7h 14m over the last 54 nights… not nearly enough sleep for my liking). I also use the native Apple Maps app often as it gives me on the go location and routing information that I need when travelling to new places. It not only shows me my location, but also the direction I’m facing which is very useful. Another app that I really love is RunKeeper. I don’t exercise enough, but when I do I use this app to track my running and I really love it. It works like a breeze, has a beautiful interface, shows me exactly where I’ve been and integrates nicely with the Runkeeper website and Facebook. However, I recently stopped using it. Although though it provided me with exactly what I needed to track exercise it was missing one thing that I never thought I’d need when exercising… Zombies.

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Gamification: Thoughts on definition and design

I might be a little paranoid but I think games are starting to follow me around. I get points and badges every time I share my location with friends using Foursquare, I’ve levelled up twice in the last week just by completing tasks on the Epic Win to do list app and I outran two zombie mobs during my run last night. These apps are part of a bigger trend that has gained immense popularity over the last year or so known as gamification. 

Gamification is being heralded as the way to engage users with products and the number of ‘gamified’ products hitting the market is increasing so much so that by the year 2015 we could see 50% of all organisations gamifying their innovation processes [1]. Gamification is also being tossed around as simply a buzzword, a meaningless word full of promises of increasing user loyalty – potentially something that could potentially provide the missing step for the gnomes from South Park?

However, difficulty arises when attempting to understand what gamification exactly means, separating it from the notion of serious or pervasive, persuasive games and then trying to classify what exactly is gamified and what isn’t. However, regardless of whether it’s game elements being used in a non-game context or if it’s a complete serious game, the drive behind using games and game elements in this way is the same; to motivate and engage through fun and enjoyment. If this is the case then the focus should be on the design of the game elements, drawing from game design theory and understanding the motivation to play games in order to create the most engaging player experience that will keep people playing.

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