Often when trying to convey an idea, we write, and write, and write some more. Though this is often the easiest and most accessible form of communication, it is not always the most effective or best user experience. In the first post of this multi post series “Beyond the Written Word: Showing, Not Telling” we will explore gamification.
"Tell me and I'll forget;
show me and I may remember;
involve me and I'll understand."
Note: I am not in the “people don’t read anymore,” camp. Even Steve Jobs is wrong sometimes. This article only intends to explore additional ways of illustrating ideas.
It’s About the Experience
Magritte understood interaction...
“The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture "This is a pipe", I'd have been lying!”
Source:Torczyner, Harry. - Magritte: Ideas and Images. p. 71. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images
He’s right. It’s not a pipe. It’s a painting and the experience of that pipe does not translate, it is a 2D representation.
Cesi N'est Pas PacMan
In a similar manner, if I wanted to learn about the popular 80s video game, PacMan, I could read the extensive wiki article about it...it is very long. I could also look at a few photos of it, or I could ask someone to explain it. However, these things are proxies. They do not let the
user “experience” the game.
But what more is there? Can you put every user in a 1980s arcade? No, but you can simulate it. For the 30th anniversary of PacMan, Google created a 550px x 180 px working packman simulation for a Google Doodle. No descriptive text or instructions. This is still not PacMan, but it’s a lot closer!
“Google doodler Ryan Germick and I made sure to include PAC-MAN’s original game logic, graphics and sounds, bring back ghosts’ individual personalities, and even recreate original bugs from this 1980’s masterpiece. We also added a little easter egg…”
Gamification has proven to be a powerful way to communicate. It has almost become cliche in industries like education, and with good reason. It can improve retention and comprehension ten fold. When used correctly and with sophistication it takes elements of crowdsourcing, community, and social interaction and turns them into solutions. It becomes hard to ignore news headlines like the one below:
Gamers solve molecular puzzle that baffled scientists - source
“In 2011, 40,000 people worked for just 10 days to solve the secret of a key protein that scientists believe may lead to a cure for HIV. Researchers had been working on the problem for 15 years.” Learn more here.
Below are some ways to incorporate gamification into your work.
Encourage collaboration. How can individuals work together to solve or explore a problem? Are there areas where many people can have small parts or where a few select individuals can have larger parts. How can you build between these two areas? Socialization is a key component to engaging users.
Start a discussion. Are there questions you can ask that can replace or expand on what you are “telling”? As a conveyer of knowledge, it can be very tempting to talk for hours about what you know. It is much harder, and more humbling, to find the right questions and the sit quietly while others discover the answers you may or may not already know. How can you turn that discovery into a game?
Create Experts. Experts aren’t just leaderboard obsessed maniacs, they are essential to the development of the game, often feeding directly back into by passing along their knowledge and becoming watchdogs for the community. Their knowledge and stewardship can be leveraged when moving on to a new phase or for simple maintenance.
Set a limit and goals. Any parent knows, adding a time limit turns any task into a game. By adding limits users begin to feel a sense of urgency and priority.
Reward often. Another key component of gamification is the rewards. Incorporating rewards can be as simple as adding a leaderboard to an interface and issuing points or badges, but remember, your rewards have more value if they can be lost.
Games to Play That Help Advance Science