After the opening keynote from Zynga's Chief Designer, Brian Reynolds, we heard from Steve Sims of Badgeville and Rajat Paharia of Bunchball. Later, a panel of Kapitall, Spectrum DNA, and Dotmenu (CampusFood.com) representatives compared game mechanics in a broad range of web sites, and James Gatto explained how to protect your company against game-related legal issues.
The discussions highlighted the following themes for applying game mechanics to your site, community, or campaign:
- Enable self-expression. We love expressing ourselves to the world, and since we generally do so in a relatively public setting (like Facebook), those expressions matter more.
- Make it social. Zynga's Reynolds started his speech by highlighting that we get "real-world social value from our virtual interactions." Rajat Paharia elaborated, including the achievement aspect of games, by inquiring, "what good is achievement if no one else sees it?"
- Rank/leaderboards. Remind people of their desired in-game achievements. Sometimes the focus lies in competition. Other times, we focus on where we were, where we are, and where we wish to be.
- Drive to the business goal. Don't let the game distract the user from getting to the end objective. Gently nudge them to the goal.
- Use fun to increase loyalty. Game mechanics motivate fans to stay on your site. Give them something fun to do, and they'll come running back.
- Tie everything together. As Spectrum DNA's Vincent Beerman said, "Game mechanics create the perfect way to thread various, disparate experiences together."
But will game mechanics work for your brand? Here are some considerations:
- Be careful to reward certain behaviors and natural abilities. Sally Wood mentioned that Kapitall's investment game system does not reward people who learn faster or invest better. That would be unfair to those who have more difficulty learning to invest.
- Keep budget and expectations in mind. Don't create a badge and stop there. What is your objective, and what growth do you expect?
- Optimize. Not once, but constantly. Analyze the results of game mechanics. As Sims stated, "Pay attention to how your actions affect retention."
- Virtual value is easier to manage than real-world value. There's a lot more room to step back and revise processes with in-world rewards. And in-game items of real-world value are subject to real-world value laws, as James Gatto of Pillsbury LLP pointed out.
- Understand what you own. Ownership vs. license laws are tricky. Make sure you know whether you own the game system you've implemented, or have licensed it from the developer.
In some ways, game mechanics are no different than other campaign elements; keep sight of your end goal at all times and optimize to reach it. And most importantly, remember to listen to your consumers and optimize for them. Games, and game mechanics, are all about the consumer's enjoyable experience.