This Article IS About Gamification--and About the Extrinsic & Intrinsic Rewards that Make it Work
Denis Wilson, please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
In your recent article that wasn't about gamification, you criticized the concept as being manipulative, and about big money.
Guilty as charged--in a way. Gamification is too young to be about seriously big money--certainly too young to be as serious as the actual games business itself. Games are huge money, for sure. Gaming is a $66 billion dollar business, twice as big as the Hollywood box office, significantly bigger than magazine publishing. Gamification is a fraction of that. But it does show a potential for creating seriously increased revenues for people who are able to use it properly. Is that so bad?
You said gamification is a buzzword being tossed at conferences. Really? I toss the word for sure. I speak at conferences about it. And so far, in every conference I've been to, and with every publisher I've spoken to, no one had a clue what gamification is. Most had never even heard the term. I would concede that for publishers it's a buzzword-in-the-making. But as words go, this one needs a lot more buzz before we pile on it for overuse.
And you said that gamification is manipulative. I would agree that it has the potential to be. As publishers, anything we do can be authentic or cheap, significant or showy. But in any business we have certain goals we need to achieve. In that sense marketing is manipulative. SEO is manipulative. Creating engagement is manipulative. And yes, if gamification is to be a part of our overall concept, our overall strategy, and a business technique we use to achieve our specific goals, it has to be understood and used to further those goals.
That's business. That's life. We set out to accomplish certain ends, and we use the tools at our disposal to accomplish them. Gamification has the potential to become one of the most powerful of those tools.
The beauty of publishing, however, is that our customers are our partners. Our relationship with our audience is dynamic and reciprocal. It is intelligent, and alive, and based upon trust and respect. And gamification can foster and enhance those qualities that make the publisher-audience dynamic a living thing.
To understand the principles of effective gamification it's essential to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation relies on external rewards, such as points, bonuses, and 'stuff', to create the impetus to action and achievement. It can be effective if used properly. But gamification experts know that extrinsic motivators, used alone, can quickly become de-motivating. To create long-term motivation, it is necessary to weave in a strong intrinsic element, providing your audience opportunities for competence, relatedness, and agency, as they interact with your content or site.
The not-gamification article talks about using games to create playful experiences for people to help them interact with institutions in a more meaningful way, to create a different kind of engagement. It mentions creating a different approach to content, with a different investment in the outcomes; about using games experiences to get at deeper connections and better answers.
Bingo. That's gamification in a nutshell.
The important thing to remember about gamification is that, if done well, it isn't simply grafting a game--any game--onto one's site or content. And in that sense it is deeper and more powerful than the gaming additions to sites and institutions that not-gamification implies. Gamification, done well and properly understood, is not about "just jumping through hoops or getting through a requirement." It's about creating a richer, more immersive, more interactive experience, one that publishers can use to connect with and engage their audiences, enhancing relationships and increasing audience loyalty.
Over-gamification can yield negative results. But before we get to the point of over-gamification, we must get to the point where we, in publishing, understand what it is, what it can do for us, and how to use it properly in the first place. Let's not make the mistake of dismissing a tool that is designed to help publishers achieve their goals of linking their digital and analog businesses and developing interaction and engagement online. A dismissiveness to early aspects of digital development as being too trendy, too buzzy, or not relevant, can lead to a loss of leadership in the very realm that publishers need to own, the realm of online content publishing.
Working with game mechanics differs from creating full-blown games on a publisher's site, not because the gamification is manipulative or overdone (!) or in any way bogus, but because in many cases the element of play is added without the creation of the actual game. Publishers are not videogame developers. The publisher's world is the world of content, of connection with the audience, of media. Media is converging, and games are a part of that convergence. But the game itself is not the mission of the content publisher.
Gamification enables the content publisher to add the challenge, the growth, the interactivity, the engagement, the learning, the reward--without creating an experience that is, solely or restrictively, a game.
Publishers can't be blamed for not fully understanding gamification. It's a new concept to them, and as such is still being defined. To dismiss it out of hand because, as a concept, it's beginning to get some traction, is indeed reminiscent of what some publishers did a half dozen years ago with social media. Since then we've all learned how to use social media. And we've learned why it's important.
I expect to see the same thing happen in the coming few years with gamification--for the publishers that are open to seeing and embracing its potential.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.