A game can keep someone hooked for hours, or even days, at a time. A gamer will stick with a game even during the boring and repetitive parts. Obviously a game is not the same thing as a website, but you can use some of the same principles to make your website as addicting as a game. This is called gamification. If you use the methods of gamification right, you could keep your visitors occupied for a long time without them even realizing how long they’ve been sitting in front of the screen.
Gamification does not mean you add the graphics, missions, and high score rankings of games. It means you use the theories behind the games. This article is an introduction to the theories of a game. Our next article will cover some of the ways to implement gamification into your websites and applications.
WHAT MAKES A GAME
Let’s start with the basics. First we need to know what components make up a game. In Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design, Rollings and Adams write about the four components of any game: play, pretending, rules, and goals.
Play usually involves no goals, it is simply for enjoyment. In a game, when you are simply playing around, you are creating your own storyline. You actively create your entertainment in contrast to just accepting it, like while watching a TV show or reading a book.
Clear is an app that allows users to simply play. It was designed to let users create, keep, edit, and delete lists of tasks, but some people said they would create lists just for the fun of checking them off.
Part of the allure of a game comes from the user’s opportunity to be whoever and do whatever they want. This often allows people to act very differently than they would when they are not anonymous. Some people love chat rooms for this reason.
Every game has rules or limits on what the player can do. There are four different kinds of rules in a game that can apply to websites.
- Semiotics is how symbols are used and interpreted. Icons are the symbols of web design. It’s important to always use icons that have a clear meaning to the user, or to back them up with text.
- Sequence of Play is the order in which the game progresses. An eCommerce site could have a sequence of play that goes something like this: Find product > Read product description and reviews > Buy product > Go through the checkout process.
- The Main Goal is just that, the main goal of whatever you game you’re playing or process you’re going through on a website. Sometimes users can be motivated to set their own goals.
- The Termination Condition determines when the game is over. On an eCommerce site, this could be receiving a confirmation email about the product you just ordered. The user will not return if they haven’t had a good experience at this point.
It’s always a great feeling to accomplish a task. Achieving even a small goal can provide lots of satisfaction. Giving your website’s users goals to tackle, encouraging them to complete those goals, and rewarding them when they do is a great way to keep visitors on your site. For example, many sites have a progress bar shown throughout their sign-up process to give you an idea of how far along you are and how far you have to go.
Cooperation and Competition
Games are always more fun when you’re playing them with someone else. Social networks provide great ways to allow user to cooperate and compete with their friends. Companies like Fab give you the option to post to your Facebook when you make a purchase, because they know your friends are more likely to buy something if they see you have too. FourSquare uses social networks to let you know if one of your friends has beat you out of being mayor of your favorite coffee shop and encourages you to get your title back.
That’s it for today. Come back next week and we’ll cover using these theories in your websites and applications to provide a greater user experience.