September 5, 2013

An Interview with Gamification Wizard Jim Wexler: Part 2

Technology Advice had the privilege of speaking with Jim Wexler, an expert in the field of gamification. He is a pioneer of games as a media platform and has been involved with gamification for several decades. Currently, he is the president of Experiences Unlimited, a company that specializes in improving organization performance through gamification, game-based brand platforms and social media marketing.

In Part 1 of the interview Jim discussed basic principles of participation as well as some basics of game design. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Here, Jim talks about some ways gamification can be used and some potential dangers of poor design.

Do you have thoughts or strategies for incorporating gamification into an existing enterprise that is already well established in their mode of operation?

“Big picture; the reason that gamification has resonated and become popular is because of the popularity of game dynamics in our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of examples in which companies or entities have used the power of game dynamics as motivating behavior and they do it with employees. They also do it with B2B situations where they are motivating customers and some with consumers. That can range from the most understood practices on adding loyalty and reward systems to drive employee participation behavior.”

“There are so many behaviors that are beneficial to organizations if their constituents, employers or customers adhere or participate better. For example, companies who recognize that getting their employees to sign up for compliance programs or benefits or employee investment 401k programs. It’s incredibly important to these organizations that their people participate. In many of those cases it’s possible to drive participation, awareness, and ultimately behavior by adding classic game dynamics to the process. You can make it more interesting to sign up for a benefits program by adding prizes, rewards, and then dynamic structures like completion bars on the sign up process. Making the interface more game like and then rewarding people for their participation overall has been proven to be very effective.”

Do you have any experience with a line where gamification can be so widely adopted that it becomes counterproductive? 

“It’s when you lose sight of those core values of having it be user-centric and meaningful. You know the old story about the rat experiment if you keep giving it cocaine it will eventually do it until it dies. It’s the same metaphor. There’s a great example from another consultant. They were gamifying a child’s ability to be potty trained. The child was told “every time you go in the potty you get M&Ms.” So, the kid figured out a way to get more M&Ms by going to the potty more often but was in a way that was un-healthy.”

“The drivers of the behavior have to correlate with the end goal being sought. Anyone can cheat on a loyalty program if it’s not structured correctly. They get points even if the acquisition of those points is counterproductive to the marketer’s goals for loyalty. An un-named detergent company was lamenting the quality of their customer lists. The brand had been discounting extensively and their lists, loyal customers and online presence was rife with customers who didn’t care about the product but only cared about getting a few more cents off. So, they weren’t building more loyalty for the brand but they were building a bunch of cheapskates. That was a gamification system but their promotion system wasn’t using the goal of acquiring loyal customers. It wasn’t structured right. They were not reading the data right because they were not bringing out offers that were building loyalty.

Holistically speaking, if it’s a game or game system then the structure of it should fit the process you were trying to gamify. They have to be used carefully.”


Later this month, Jim will be acting as the conference chair for the Enterprise Gamification Forum in New York City. Jim explained that the conference is a great opportunity to gain insight into the world of gamification. “We’re going to put together some top people and top experts that would be almost impossible to access in any other form. We’ve got some great workshops and sessions that will be very intriguing. There’s a deep need, particularly at the enterprise/corporate level, companies, to understand gamification.”

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