I'm a fairly competitive person. I like to win. And thanks to many hours spent in front of the screen, I find myself pretty motivated when I see an opportunity to "level up." But that being said, I still question the rush lately to add "game mechanics" to every new product and experience.
But does the addition of levels, leader-boards, and virtual trophies necessarily lead to a better user experience? Of course not.
In a recent blog post titled, "Why You Should NOT Integrate Game Mechanics Into Your Service," Gaurav Mishra, CEO of 2020Social points to the ways in which the pressure to add points and badges can obscure some of the other important considerations when developing an application or service. Mishra quotes Pascal Rettig who argues that we are confusing game mechanics - which are really about gameplay - with mechanics meant to change user behavior surrounding the product. "Where you should focus your efforts to avoid launching a dud as we roll through the game mechanics hype cycle," says Rettig, "is on making the core of whatever system you are building more game-like (put simply, fun) and not just toss a thin-veneer of simple game mechanics around the outside."
You don't want any game mechanics you implement to distract your users away from your core service. And you don't want to just bow to the pressure to include badges and mayorships simply because others have incorporated them successfully. And you don't want to assume that just because you've incorporated game mechanics that somehow you've made your app playful and fun.
White label game mechanics service Bunchball respond in the comments on Mishra's post with these insights:
- Have good core content. If users have no reason to come back to your site without game mechanics, they're going to have no reason to come back with game mechanics.
- Have clear business objectives that you're using game mechanics to drive.
- Apply game mechanics in a contextually appropriate manner for your community. Farmville and Stack Overflow both use game mechanics, but different ones, and in very different ways, that are appropriate for their respective communities.
- Iterate & Evolve. You're not going to get it right the first time, and you're going to learn from your users.
What do you think? Do you find game mechanics engaging? And if so, which products do you think are the most effective and innovative when it comes to integrating game mechanics into their design?