Gamification: That’s My Jam

Brands are embracing gamification. Want to learn more about game development and design, but not sure where to start? Try a Game Jam.

Other than a brief addiction to Tetris (when I played so much I actually started dreaming in Tetris pieces) I have not played a video game since the days of old Nintendos, Super Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt. But when a number of T4G developers (who also happen to be avid gamers) offered to fill me in on a creative project they’d been working on, I decided the time was right to, well, get with the times.

Gamification – brands incorporating games into the customer experience – is not a new concept, but with smartphones and social media literally at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever that brands create positive experiences for their customers. Gamification can achieve that.

Nike demonstrated this with the launch of its Nike+ Fuelband application in 2012. Users earned NikeFuel points to unlock achievements, incentivizing them to move and track their activity. They included a social element, giving users the ability to challenge friends. As users accumulated points, they were posted to a public leaderboard. Tapping into the spirit of competition struck a chord. By 2013, the Nike+ digital ecosystem had over 18 million users.

Similarly, Bluewolf uses gamification internally to engage employees and encourage them to become actively involved in building their brand. They created their own #GoingSocial program, offering points and rewards for achievements such as internal and external collaboration and publishing content on the company’s blog. This allowed Bluewolf to establish a strong social presence that engaged potential customers and motivated employees.

As a marketer, I need to be able to recognize when there are opportunities for my clients to take advantage of the seemingly endless possibilities of gamification to enhance the customer experience with their brand. In order to do this, it’s certainly an advantage to understand game design and principles and to actually give it a go. But where do you start if you’re like me – interested, but not a gamer or a developer? A Game Jam, of course.

Gamification – brands incorporating games into the customer experience – is not a new concept, but with smartphones and social media literally at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever that brands create positive experiences for their customers. Gamification can achieve that.

What’s a Game Jam?

So, back to that creative project I mentioned earlier. T4G’s Thomas Eaton, Brett O’Donnell, and Andrew Kenny (or, The League of Extraordinary Developers, as I like to call them) put their skills to the test at a recent Game Jam. In this case, the theme was to create a game featuring a female lead character, and the team had just 48 hours to get it done. They worked collaboratively to achieve really cool results – a game called Wacky Anchors.

Just like a Game Jam, Wacky Anchors is collaborative, with two players working together toward a common goal. The objective is for a diver to guide a ship toward treasure chests on the ocean floor, so the ship’s anchor can be dropped in just the right spot to collect them.

One player lowers and raises the anchor. The other player controls the diver and can move the screen left and right or up and down. The diver can also help by bumping the anchor toward the treasure.
Wacky Anchors Graphic

Not knowing what to expect, I gave it a try. Turns out it’s a whole lot of fun. Wacky Anchors is a prototype and what’s next is still to be determined – maybe you’ll see it on Steam (the largest game distribution platform on the Internet) someday soon.

Top 5 Tips to Make the Most of Game Jams

So you’re taking the plunge and going to a Game Jam? Make the most of it with these tips from Thomas, Brett, and Andrew:

  • Think outside the box. A game doesn’t necessarily have to have a competitive element – it simply has to have a goal that you work toward completing
  • Bring ideas, but be prepared to iterate based on the Game Jam theme
  • Come up with a simple idea – try to create a game you can explain in one sentence
  • As a general rule, aim to have the core gameplay development finished by the end of day one so you can polish it on day two
  • Photoshop and 3D-modelling experience is very useful – if you can find team members with these skills, you’re golden

You don’t need to be a developer or have an interest in gaming to attend a Game Jam and gain a better understanding of the principles of gamification – they’re open to anyone (developers, programmers, game designers, artists, writers, musicians, etc.) and often have hubs for recruiting teams, such as this subreddit. If you’re in Halifax, you might want to check out monthly Mini-Jams at Volta Labs on Barrington St.

Gamification and Customer Motivation

As more and more brands and businesses are exploring how gamification can work for them, we’re moving past misconceptions that games are purely meant for goofy fun or escapism, or, on the flip-side, that games must involve aggression or violence to be popular.

“Sitting at the cross-roads between behavioural economics and video games, gamification brings behaviour change methodologies into the digital age by explicitly providing us with the mechanics to improve user engagement.” – Kyle Findlay and Kirsty Alberts, The TNS Global Brand Equity Centre

Gamification increases engagement by tapping in to what motivates people – what might once have been considered dry subject matter can suddenly become attractive when delivered through quizzes, which can then provide businesses with important data. Organizations can tap into the full potential of their employees by gamifying processes, boosting employee performance, satisfaction, and morale; and facilitating peer-to-peer connections, building trust in their brand and increasing sales.

Brigid McWhirter

Brigid is a Managing Editor with T4G Kick. Her creativity, enthusiasm, and experience help her share engaging stories that draw in and stay with her audience. She spends her free time pursuing creative endeavors like writing, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, print making, and textile arts.