Some fun theory to start with:
Below’s clip dates back to 2009 proving that with adding fun to dull daily tasks, people’s behaviour can be influenced by introducing play aspects. Whilst this study is inconclusive in nature due to timing and selection bias, the shown increase of people using stairs by 66% vs the escalator suggests still valuable points to take away.
Critique on the “study” / stunt:
The introduction of the game element fun lead people to change short term behaviour on both an experimental and non-trivial level. The question however remains if the human condition to recognise patterns will lower the fun element in the long term and thus dis-validate the spike in stairs vs. escalator selection. In other words, when will it become boring to take the stairs vs. going back to the elevator? The discount of other external influences, such as presence of cameras, crowd effects and word of mouth add further to the question of validity of said experiment.
Stuff to think about:
Without going further into issues of this experiment, it should trigger thoughts on how a behavioural change can be prolonged (e.g. Skinner’s theorem on operant conditioning) and how, when and or if fun elements as game elements hit a ceiling. In above’s experiment, it is bluntly obvious as any element to prolong sustainable change and induce behavioural change is missing. Once you have walked the stairs 2,3,4 or 5 times, the fun part of doing so and the associated engagement level starts to decrease.
Current application of game elements on real world problems:
A lot can be learned far from the scientific side of behavioural psychology. The application of game elements to non-game environments to induce behavioural change effects has already found wide application in both business models and marketing techniques. On the business model side, Linkedin with its profile progression bar and contribution graphs in groups as premiered the application of game elements, namely progression and levelling. Newer applications include FitBit, Nike+ and many other behavioural change inducing products. Very creative application of game elements can be found in Jay Z’s decoded experience on bing which levered upon virality, social sharing and explorer type behaviour.
The list of applied gamification to market problems is almost endless, yet many industries, such as B2B in general lag fairly behind to acknowledge the advantages of utilising game elements in both internal and external setting. Whoever is better to cite than Kevin Werbach, Wharton School of Business, who taught one of the first courses ever on gamification.
Kevin Werbach on Gamification:
Current issues in research:
I could probably go on about various game mechanics, their application to reduce intrusive messaging to players and and and but this serves little to no point for one very serious reason. Besides studies on game behaviour online and some Gartner studies predicting a fail of large junks of gamification applications due to design elements, the scientific foundation and relevant research to build a solid foundation on a larger scale is missing. I wonder why research hasn’t caught up with a growing industry and managers acknowledging the application of game elements to real world problems. Question to be answered and researched:
> When will we hit a gamification ceiling and how can this be overcome (e.g. the Zynga fall of FarmVille reveals cycles in game elements)?
> Marketers like advergaming and gamification for external applications, mainly to induce marketing messages on an less intrusive level to consumers. Yet when and how does message aversion develop to the increase in gamified elements in the real world. The same applies to advergames and in-game advertising?
> How can we apply design elements to create sustainable fun elements for prolonged engagement or is the concept of iteration to be internalised?