Games especially those that go viral in their first release, the most recent one people may remember from last summer is Pokemon Go. People were downloading it left right and centre even if the official release for their country hadn’t been made available yet. You saw throngs of people everywhere playing Pokemon Go and then you obviously had the people trespassing, driving or walking into things because they were so consumed by the game. Like with all popular trends, the passion for it is high at the beginning and it is guaranteed to pass. It doesn’t mean people don’t play anymore, it just means it is out of the limelight and the players that were into the game because of its popularity very likely have moved on to the next big thing. New more consistent players emerge, who may be with you for the long run.
Even the players that fell in love with the game for the game play itself, will have their infatuation fade. It either becomes part of a new routing or it remains on the back burner something you play but maybe not with the same intensity. I wouldn’t have classed myself as a fanatical player of Pokemon Go, but I do like collecting all the creatures and levelling up and I still play when I go on my walk and when feasible I do my daily streaks.
So why is this important to gamification?
Well first of all, in some organisations the very mention of gamification may cause a little bit of excitement and frenzy albeit professional, but not too dissimilar to the initial passion people have for popular games. Once the buzz dies down a bit and the initial curiosity fades, the real test of your design comes in. The reality for a lot of gamification design project in the business world is that they may never need hype management to the same extent popular games do. However the techniques used to manage for the long run are useful.
You have a choice to manage with spikes of excitement or campaign cycles or release cycles. When you choose to manage your gamification with spikes, you are always aiming to build some element of hype, which in the long run is not achievable every single time and each time will need to outdo the last one. It burns out energy and also with it some goodwill of the players whose expectations are raised every single time only to fade again. This option is for adrenaline junkies. Personally I feel building in cycles from the start, where new items are launched, revisions are made or where seasonal campaigns are built in, is more sustainable in the long run. Most production teams have to think a year ahead, most marketing teams shortly follow behind team and the sales team probably has the more short term focus. In any case planning for the peaks and throughs of productivity, activity and sales is something that works well in how you structure the gamification design to support your players through their workload for the long run. Campaigning may work initially, it also desensitises people if you over-use the approach, just think about politics to understand what I mean, no country nor politician wants regular election campaigns, most of us don’t listen to what anyone says if they happen too often.
Finding a balance for you game patterns requires input on what the organisational patterns are. If you are unsure or you are struggling with finding this input, look for production schedules, marketing schedules and sales campaigns. Those will give you input as to when not to launch amazing new gamification, but rather tweak some items that have smaller impact and keep the great newer release for when people actually have time to enjoy it. Look for patterns and follow them as if you are working the ocean for wave design.
I know this is somewhat more of a conceptual post, but I think an important concept for those of us designing long term gamification and not just quick fire solutions.