Gamification is all about making peoples experience more rewarding and appealing. As a gamification designer, your goal is not to turn activities into games but rather, to make activities as rewarding as games. To achieve this, you have to think not as a game player, but as a game designer.
Being a game designer means understanding the ‘framework’ of games. Whether it is card games, board games, puzzles or video games, all games have at least, some of the components we will highlight briefly.
Boundary: a game is defined by events that could occur within its boundaries. The game of chess, for instance, ignores everything that occurs outside the chessboard. Only actions performed on the board matters to the game and the players. The same is applicable to other games including video games.
Rules / Constraints: games are different from each other mainly because of the rules and limitations associated with each game. The rules of the game define how simple or complex the gameplay will be. They also provide background information like who the players are, how many players are required, what players can do, incentives for player actions and so on.
For example, one of the rules in both ice hockey and volleyball is that 6 players are required for each playing team, however, other rules like dimensions of the playing field, playing equipment differentiate both games.
- Goals: each game has its own goal as defined by the rules. This is what differentiates a 100m dash from a 100m hurdle race, or a 400m race from an 800m race. The goal of the game tells participants what they need to do during gameplay in order to complete the game.
- Voluntary engagement: games are totally voluntary and the players follow the rules usually because the want to, not because they have to.
- Problem solving: games often present the players some sort of obstacle or challenge that the player has to navigate in pursuit of goals.
- Choices and Outcomes: most games offer players one or more paths to take in achieving goals, though not all such paths lead to the desired outcome.
- Balance: games typically try to set some balance for the players, this way resources are not too scarce or in surplus, gameplay is not too easy or difficult for the players competency level and so on. This is especially true of video games where players earn resources which in turn could be used to buy upgrades or traded for other things they need to progress in the game. Players are not provided with everything at once, and are not left without means of stepping up to the challenges ahead.
A great gameplay experience is determined partly by the way in which these components of a game framework are utilized. More so, the success of a gamification project will rely strongly on the designer’s adoption of components of this framework and integrating them into the activity that needs to be gamified.