A lot of people assume that gamification is easy and on occasion I get asked that question. The reality is the easier and more flawless gamification looks and feels to the end-user, the more iterations, design thinking and development has probably gone into it. Some of the gamification platforms will tell you it is flicking on a switch and you are live, when actually it does require some thought and process in my view. It takes a bit of time to come up with something appropriate for the target audience, fitting to the corporate culture and achieving the objectives for having it in the first place.
I like the way Karl Kapp puts it in his “Gamification of learning and instructional design field book“. He lists it’s easy to design as one of the wrong reasons to choose for gamification in learning. He points out to start it’s not easy. Here is what he then explains:
“Creating a game, gamification or simulations is a time-consuming difficult process. You must continually weigh up the need for meeting instructional objectives against the dynamics of scoring points, creating interactions and keeping the learner motivated.
Development efforts for interactive learning experiences require long hours, multiple interactions of the learning experience, and a careful attention to detail. Not to mention the need for quality graphics and a careful melding of content and game play. The typical instructional designer has no experience with game development or gamification, and it is rarely taught in schools.
Storyboards need to be created, flow charts developed, code programmed, all within a typical short and tight time line. Too often people equate a simple, easy-to-play game with a simple easy-to-create design and development process, whereas the two are inversely related. When a game is easy to play and intuitive, the process to ensure those features is usually involved and complex.”
I like his description, because it shows the steps and importance of the process we go through. It is not just one field coming together, we draw on skills from a few fields, game design, business, graphics, UX and UI design and development. Especially when we deal with price hunting customers, we have to keep explaining that quality takes iterations and time. Mapping out an interactive experience will always take a number of iterations and with user feedback we make it better as we go.
The projects where we have skipped steps because clients refused to engage in all the parts, is where we had trouble creating lasting engagement and often something was compromised. Budget is another reason why things may not look and feel as good as you may like them to, but it is the reality in our work.
So long answer to a short question, gamification is not easy!