Games. Humans have been playing them since at least 6000 BC. If you started playing Monopoly then, you could have played 70 million games. You would have hit free parking a few thousand times, for sure.
Why do we love games? Everyone has their own reasons, but it’s likely that humans play for some mixture of entertainment, achievement, pride, inclusion, and adventure. Personally, I play for the Brie. If wine and cheese are involved, I can finish last in Ticket to Ride and still feel like a winner. Games often send us into a state of flow, where we can turn the cares of the world off for a while and focus our brain on something fun.
At Chaordix, we have weaved some of gaming’s key tenets into our Participation Platform, a software toolkit that global brands like LEGO and Decathlon use to co-create with their biggest fans. In this post, we are going to unbundle some of gaming’s pillars and explain how we incorporate gamification into our software in order to maximize member engagement and accomplish specific business objectives.
What Makes Gaming Great?
There are many reasons that games transcend time and culture, but here are four that we see as central to the ongoing appeal of gaming.
One of the commonalities across games, from board games to video games to sports, is the concept of the collective concrete goal. In battle royale games like Fortnite, your goal is to be the last person standing. In the NFL, your organization competes to win the Superbowl. In Pandemic, your team struggles to survive the virus. Working towards a goal requires focus and often pushes us to the edges of our own abilities, whether it is our physical limits, or our cognitive limits.
Teamwork has also been a staple of games. Whether everyone is working towards the same goal, or teams are competing with one another, games capitalize on the positive feelings that come along with the move from ‘individual’ to ‘teammate’.
Many modern games continue to evolve as we play them. DLC (Downloadable Content) has become standard for many video games, and these extra chapters, new characters, or novel weapons breathe life into games that might otherwise get stale over time. Another example of evolving challenges comes from the sport of golf. As golfers improve their abilities, they graduate to harder tees and their handicaps change.
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators
In games, as in life, we consciously and subconsciously seek rewards. These rewards might be trophies, badges, leaderboard points, bragging rights, or cash. These rewards are extrinsically motivated. They are superficial and often defined by culture. Being drafted first, having the fastest car, your name at the top of a leaderboard - we are driven towards these rewards, in some part, by the world outside our heads.
Intrinsic motivators on the other hand, are internal. Making a shot one week that you could not make the week before produces an intrinsic reward: satisfaction. This feeling of satisfaction has nothing to do with whether someone watched you make the shot. It comes from inside you. The nature of competitive games means that there are many opportunities for extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.
How We Built Gamification Into Online Co-Creative Communities
Concrete goals, teamwork, evolving challenges, and intrinsic & extrinsic motivators: these concepts have driven our product roadmap for a decade.
How We Establish Goals
When a brand engages us to launch a co-creative community, our first questions always centre on their goals. What is the purpose of the community? What innovation and/or marketing goals are we trying to achieve? When we have established the concrete goal, we create a co-creative program or a series of programs to help the brand accomplish that goal. Each program includes at least one challenge and often a set of complimentary activities. Each program has a concrete goal, and in many cases, the community knows exactly what the goal is and can work towards it collectively.
In New Crew, the concrete goal for French sporting goods giant Decathlon is to make the world's greatest water sport accessible to all by creating a new rowing product. The community banner proclaims the objective, and every piece of communication supports it. The activities in the community and its main Challenge have been constructed to give Decathlon the information they need to make decisions about the prototype they are working on. The activities and the challenge feel like a game where the end result, if everyone works together, is an affordable, cutting-edge rowing product that thousands of people around the world can enjoy.
How We Connect Individuals and Encourage Teamwork
Every community is social by nature. Each member of a community must be able to communicate with, learn from, teach, encourage, or otherwise add to the lives of other members. In games, interactions with other people often drive the action and move the game forward.
Our Participation Platform brings people together using rich profiles, commenting, and private messaging, then leverages the relationships that these tools facilitate in order to encourage activity and challenge submissions, updates, and votes. Challenges are put out to the community and members work together to come up with solutions, update those solutions, and garner support for their own submissions.
Analogous to gaming, time restrictions are put on Challenge phases so that members need to submit an idea within a set period of time, and then marshall enough support for their idea from their fellow community members before a deadline so that they can move forward or claim a prize. Each Challenge is crafted to help achieve a business goal and brands use the game-like qualities of the platform in order to unlock ideas and insights to further their objectives. At the same time, they are building a team of fans and stakeholders to support themselves.
How Challenges Evolve to Encourage Long-Term Engagement
Evolution and games are tied closely together. Sometimes the game evolves as you play, and sometimes the game itself stays the same, but the people you play it with change. Our platform incorporates both of these instances.
Every program run on our platform includes both variety and increasing difficulty. We start each program with easy, quick activities to get creative juices flowing and to encourage conversation, then we start to layer in activities that require more thought and effort. These activities ladder up to the Challenge, which typically requires the highest level of engagement and thought. The Challenges themselves evolve, so that in addition to submitting an idea, community members can vote and support ideas, ask questions, leave comments and have the ability to update their ideas. This iterative, multi-phase process encourages community bonding, heightened participation, and ownership in a collaborative environment.
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In addition to evolving content, members are often placed into groups based on their skills, characteristics, or behavior in the community. This means that members are introduced to new groups, are given special tasks, and take on evolving responsibilities, like the opportunity of becoming a Community Expert Reviewer for Challenge submissions. The evolution of a member’s role encourages long-term engagement and brand affinity.
How We Motivate Members to Participate
Skill in most games involves extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. We practice to perform better in the next match so that we can earn a higher spot in the standings, and because being good at something makes us feel good about ourselves. In the same way, our Platform incorporates points, badges, and rewards, and it gives members the opportunity to flex their creative muscles in order to solve challenging problems.
A certain amount of extrinsic motivators are necessary to encourage recruitment. If a brand wants to bring new people into the community, they might publicize an attractive prize for the winner of an upcoming Challenge. Community members will compete to win the prize, and to be acknowledged as the winner among the rest of the community members.
Additional extrinsic motivators that are similar to games, especially video games, are points and badges. Our platform allows a brand to customize badges and automatically award users who complete the action associated with each badge, like The Enthusiast, which is awarded to members who complete 5 activities in the community. Badges are displayed on a user’s profile for other users to see. Points can also be earned through activity in the community (ie. participating in a poll, completing an activity, finishing a Challenge submissions, etc.) and exchanged for offline goods, like gift cards, free product, samples, and more. Finally, brands have been known to reward community members with royalties from products they helped create, exemplifying the value that co-creation can add for an organization.
LEGO is a poster-child for amazing extrinsic rewards. The LEGO Ideas community focuses on new product development, and kits that receive 10,000 votes are considered for production by the company. Every member of the 10,000 Votes Club is honoured across LEGO media, and those whose kit ideas go to market can count on a trip to LEGO HQ, product launch autograph signings, and 1% of net sales of their product.
Kevin Szeto, Yellow Submarine Fan Designer
With all of that said, in our ten years of experience, we have learned that too many extrinsic motivators can have a detrimental impact on communities. Scoreboards were eliminated from our platform because we found that it often rewarded quantity instead of quality. When nurturing brand fans to think creatively and critically, and where a willingness to be open, collaborative and share personal experiences is vital to the co-creative process, too much focus on ‘winning’ can be counterproductive.
Intrinsic motivators are more ephemeral than the easily-defined extrinsic motivators. This is because what one enjoys and gets satisfaction from is individual to each person. We may be motivated to participate in a game because we get enjoyment from being around a group of friends and the game is an excuse to get that group together. Someone else might play the same game because they are extremely good at it and want the endorphins associated with winning.
On our Participation Platform, brands execute programs that include quizzes, polls, photo share contests, creative activities like storytelling, decision making exercises like choose and rank, and intensive innovation Challenges. Individuals can immerse themselves in the community, bond with a group of people with similar interests, and create things that they might not have been able to create on their own.
Community participation is imbued with feelings of achievement, progress, collective action, and positivity. People come back week after week, month after month, and year after year for these intrinsic rewards. Just ask members of Creator’s Studio or Lego Ideas.
In a great game, players work towards a goal with the help of a team, through a series of evolving levels and while earning extrinsic rewards and being intrinsically motivated. What makes up a great game also helps make up a great community. Our platform was built on these principles, and designed to facilitate a game-like experience. This is just one of the reasons that our Participation Platform hosts some of the world’s most successful co-creative communities.
Interested in using game design to innovate and engage your brand fans? Let’s chat.