The Singapore-based community group, GamificationSG, held its first meet up on November 18 as part of an Interactive Digital Media (IDM) clinic held in conjunction with Singapore Polytechnic’s Games Resource Centre. Three members from the group were invited to share their thoughts and experience with gamification.
With a background in UX and game design, Joel Chua Kar Meng, founder of GamificationSG, explained that his interest in gamification lies in the notion that “games reward but reality doesn’t.” Beyond the current hype surrounding gamification, Joel firmly believes that there are many opportunities to create real social change and positive experiences for users.
However he does warn that “gamification is not just plug and play,” and that what works for one company or website may not necessarily work for another. This comes down to understanding the user and how game mechanics fit within the whole user experience and not the other way round. Referencing a local example from the National University of Singapore, Joel discussed how JFDI Academy, a meta game designed for a programming module, used game mechanics (achievements, unlocks and leader boards) to encourage students to produce consistent work as well as provide a platform for friendly competition between students.
Ridzuan Ashim, CEO of startup of Senseless Labs and Streetgy, explored the relatively new phenomenon of location-based gaming which uses game mechanics to incentivize people to move to and between specific places. A key lesson from geo-caching, one of the earliest forms of location-based gaming, was that players’ motivations can be very different even when they are completing the same activity. Moreover, people can be motivated to complete very difficult tasks if they care about the reward enough.
An interesting example demonstrating the importance of intrinsic reward was the Hackerspace SG passport. Hackerspace members can obtain a passport which is “stamped” whenever that member visits any other Hackerspace location around the world. The stamps act as a type of achievement badge that has a value and meaning pertinent only to its own members while simultaneously creating a sense of global community. Another example was the recently launched Bedisloyal, a Singapore based loyalty program that (ironically) encourages patrons to visit other cafes that are part of the same promotion. It is a clever use of the discovery game mechanic, encouraging users to explore and check out new locations.
But a key concept that is overlooked by many location-based games is that online elements need to be aligned with an understanding of the off-line environment. Developers need to recognize that users are at a specific location “to interact with friends, not play with their phone, so don’t disrupt the main activity.” He also warned that there is a real danger that after the initial novelty, badges can become meaningless. Consequently it is more important to understand the motivation behind badge acquisition and build alternative mechanics around those elements.
Keith Ng, co-founder of Socialico, explored the subject of activity based gamification. Socialico have developed Game Maki, a social discovery application that allows users to suggest and complete real challenges to claim points and tangible rewards. Keith discussed his experience in developing the application and the importance of understanding user behaviour.
Driven by the idea that “life is a game” and that “who you are is based on what you do” he noted that Facebook and Twitter are not necessarily the best places to find new things to do in your area or with friends. Game Maki also utilizes the discovery game mechanic when enticing users to try new activities or visit new places but Keith noted that the real challenge for designers is how to make actions more fun for users. He also stressed that developers need to be aware of how people may “game” the system that they have designed.
Although GamificationSG has only just been established, there is a lot of enthusiasm for developing Singapore’s role within the region as a leader in the area, capitalizing on the wealth of expertise available in social media/game development/infocomm and perhaps even positioning itself as a gateway between East and West approaches.
Gamification SG’s website is currently under development but in the meanwhile you can join their Facebook group page here.
I look forward to seeing you all at the next meet up :)