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The business of gamification: a common pitfall

Gamification is exciting. It is new and innovative, and more and more people are discovering its power of engagement and nudging behaviour.

With that excitement comes the neccessary focus on the player and their gamified experience. Gamification designers get immersed in the array of points, badges and social mechanics they will use to make this an amazing gamified experience. 

But this is only half of the story. And you need the other half to successfully implement a sustainable gamification experience.

A common pitfall in gamification is not considering business intent and constraints upfront.

What this looks like in practice: You see a business need to improve the way employees use a particular platform. You want a way to incentivise employees to use the platform more often by visiting it, reading content, writing comments and so on. Great! Gamification can help you. 

You do some quick research with users and off you go, immersing yourself in mechanics, dynamics and narratives you will use to make an epic gamification experience. You develop a great concept and then....oh-oh. How do you implement it? Your organisation's platform is old and doesn't allow for easy integration with other software. You're going to have to do it manually. But the business is really busy at the moment, and no one has spare capacity to administer the gamification experience.

In short, your idea doesn't stick. Sad face. 

The antidote: understanding business need and technical constraints upfront, and balancing this with user needs.

The solution to this problem is uninterestingly simple, yet critical. An implementable and sustainable gamification solution needs to be rooted in business need and practice. You need to know the constraints you are working with early in the process. 

The business need is not just the desired increase or decrease of a particular behaviour. It also includes the ongoing resources required to design, implement and maintain the gamification solution. Changing behaviour takes time, and either a system, a person or both need to tracking and rewarding the gamified activities. 

You need to be clear upfront how you will run the gamified experience. Will it be run on a gamification platform that lets you tailor it? Will you get a consultant to build you a bespoke system? Will you do it in-house and run on it on excel and pen-and-paper? All are valid options, but you need to know which one is right for you. 

Knowing these parameters up front will help you develop a better solution. We don't mean to say that you should limit yourself or accept the status quo. By all means, dream big and challenge assumptions. But know the real or perceived challenges you will face, so that you can address them in your solution. 

Gamification, after all, is about a marriage between a fun game-like experience and real life. 

#gamification #knowyourwhy #intent

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