Planning in High Heels

Posts Tagged ‘UXD

It doesn’t seem so long ago that gaming mechanics were the hottest thing on the web.  The advent of Foursquare and the juggernaut that is Farmville alerted the world to the potential of simple, social gaming mechanics. We marveled at how hard users were prepared to work for virtual currency and how powerful an incentive points, levels and badges seemed to be in driving participation, sharing and retention. Game theory and user experience design collided with the newly sexy field of Behavioural Economics to offer a panacea for all the world’s social and commercial ills.

Over the last six months, it’s often seemed that there’s literally no field of human endeavour (or suffering) that hasn’t had gaming mechanics applied to it. We can now get points and badges for reading articles, or for watching television. (I remember when you had to at least be able to swim 25 metres or tie a knot.) On a more altruistic level, we Brits can earn points for participating in the “Big Society” . On a more alarming level, US citizens can earn points for voting.


There's a badge for everything these days Photo credit: rocket ship/ Creative Commons

Then came the inevitable backlash. Zynga CEO Mark PIncus caused something of a stir by freely admitting “I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away”.  Ian Bogost developed the Cow Clicker game partly as a satire on the social gaming industry, together with an intelligent and considered articulation of his concerns around the industry.  Ironically, people then played Cow Clicker…and seemed to enjoy it.

Much of the backlash has come from “real” gamers; lovers of console games and MMOs who frown on social games as somehow lower on the evolutionary scale. Interestingly, that’s not Bogost’s problem. Nor mine. Full disclosure-Playstation holds no allure for me, nor have I ever impersonated an Orc. Not on purpose, anyway…. So why do I care?

We’re killing the golden goose (cow)

Applying gaming theory to UX design (still) has real and rich potential. There are inspiring case studies about the impact of gaming mechanics in healthcare for example-take this game designed to encourage children with cancer to follow their treatment regimes or some of the examples cited in this excellent post from the folks at Big Spaceship. We know more every day about how to design an online experience rooted in the psychology of the user that will bring about behavioural change. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for an industry which-at its best-has always been about finding the right prompts to change behaviour in our brands’ favour. Read the rest of this entry »

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