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Our resident gaming expert, Wade Rockett, participated in a panel discussing gamification sponsored by Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) last week. Fellow panelists included Scott Dodson of Bobber Interactive and Jeff Malek of BigDoor, and the discussion was moderated by Kraig Baker of Davis Wright Tremaine.

If you’re not familiar with the term, gamification is the act of introducing elements that you would typically encounter in a game – including challenges, points, rewards, puzzles and “leveling up” – into non-game situations, like visiting a company’s website, recovering from an illness or injury, going to school or completing a training exercise, with the end goal of making those tasks more enjoyable and rewarding for the user.

While the entire panel was fascinating, those of us who attended agreed on three key takeaways that will help communications professionals get results for their clients in a “gamified” future:

  1. Intrinsic rewards are more valuable to consumers than extrinsic rewards. In the context of game design, an extrinsic reward isn’t tied to the nature of the task itself – a common example of this is getting money in exchange for working a certain number of hours. An intrinsic reward grows out of the task itself, such as the higher levels of satisfaction one feels when accomplishing something difficult. Extrinsic rewards such as cash and free prizes used in a gamified setting may create buzz initially, but long-term engagement will come from fulfilling people’s desires to feel confident, remain autonomous and relate to the brand and their peers.
  2. Rewards, game elements and content must adhere to brand values. Marketing messages should remain consistent throughout the user experience, and game mechanics and elements should speak to the unique needs and characteristics of the brand’s community.
  3. The user sets the terms of engagement, not the brand. Just as consumers dictate how and when they consume online media content, they will decide precisely how to interact with your gamified experience. Designers need to provide a compelling experience, and be able to adjust it based on players’ behavior and expectations.

The discussion closed with the panelists sharing their predictions for the future of gamification. They all agreed that we are currently undergoing a paradigm shift in how brands must view gamification, similar to the social media shift that began a few years ago. Soon, game mechanics will become inherent in all design and will be a basic component of user interface – regardless of industry –  just as every brand now has a social media presence and community.

For more on the event, check out BigDoor’s excellent recap:

Game on!

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