Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about adding game elements in the community. You can think of points, rankings, peer pressure, collectible items, statuses and lots of other things. But why would I want to add these game mechanics? Basically it’s a way of explicitly defining what you value in your community. But making a game out of a community is not an easy task just like making a game that keeps challenging it players is very difficult.
So where to start? Points of course, what else?
What are points?
Points are potential. Points are transferable in different currencies but are nothing by themselves. Think of it as money: Nobody wants to die with a fat savings account, but with a life full of incredible experiences. Money in itself means nothing, but almost anything has a monetary value. Yes, it almost sounds like economics and philosophy. Try to define to what points are converted to by your community members because if you know what they want, you can help them get it. Is it status? Is it a free e-book? Is it access to an elite group? Is it a way of measuring achievement? Aren’t points converted to anything? Not that easy now, is it?
The different kinds of getting points
Even if your score increases with 1 point, it matters a great deal on what kind of point it is. In my opinion there are 3 axis to define what kind a point is:
- Social vs system
- Monotonous vs creative
- Surprising vs expected
1) Social vs System
A social point is when someone else is responsible for giving you this point. Somebody made an effort to signal that you’ve done something they can appreciate. When somebody likes your status on Facebook it is an example of a social point. A system point is the exact opposite of a social point: a system (a set of rules) is defined to give you a point. After killing a dragon you get 10 points. Most of the time a social point is a lot more valuable than a system point.
2) Monotonous vs creative
The task you complete to get a point makes you value a point in different ways. When somebody gets a gold medal for doing the dishes he won’t start crying, but if he gets it for finishing first in a marathon which he has trained years for, he probably will start crying. I think you have got monotonous task on the one hand that don’t need much attention just a bit of your time and you’ve got creative tasks on the other where you need to think and act creatively. Creative tasks might seem easy or even dull in retrospect but they need your attention when you do them at first. If you do the same creative task over and over again in the exact same way, it is monotonous.
Getting points for something creative gives a player a lot more joy for a longer time than receiving it for a task he doesn’t really like in the first place. Monotonous task points are just for the points, creative tasks points are celebrated while accomplishing something.
3) Surprising vs expected
The amount of points and the timing of them can surprise us. A surprise in itself is something most people enjoy so points that are unexpected and surprising are more than just a point, they are signs you’re on the right track and you feel joy that you’ve done what you just did. Getting a ‘nice job!’ from your boss every time you finish something don’t mean anything after a while. Getting a card all of the sudden with ‘nice job!’ means a lot more. When you can surprise somebody in a positive way, why wouldn’t you?
So now we start implementing points in our community?
Well, no. More and more evidence shows that getting people to do things by themselves for a longer time is not by giving them a reward for it. I’m not completely convinced though, because in the examples and research they did they saw points as points as points while there are different kinds, in my opinion. Nobody ever gets tired of getting an honest compliment from somebody who cares.
So I think we need to think out a great ‘reward recipe’ for our communities. You want to motivate community members to become active, so the first few times they sign in or like a post you want to automatically congratulate him. Also, when someone writes a well constructed forumpost you want to stimulate that kind of behaviour. Points still might be a first step towards getting them closer to something they like or want. So if you communicate very clearly what points might get someone they start dreaming of it, and if it sounds doable, they start collecting points for it.
In my next blogpost I will go into the different things you can do with points.