Without Meaningful User Experiences there is no Gamification Success

A couple of days ago I met with a couple of students interested on learning how to apply gamification techniques to a project they were developing. We talk about a lot of gamification stuff, and at some point, we started to discuss if it made sense to create a standard set of gamification rules for each possible business application. My point of view about standardizing gamification is clear: you can make a set of predefined game mechanics for each business, but for achieving success with gamification, you need to create meaningful user experiences, so businesses applying a bunch of predefined game mechanics wouldn’t be able to achieve their business goals.

And the reasoning for me is quite clear. Part of the success of gamification is that gamification pioneers have been able to offer their users and customers awesome user experiences by introducing game mechanics in their business processes. But if every company in a given sector is doing the exact same things and applying the exact game mechanics in the exact ways, nobody would be providing different user experiences that are able to make users engage your product, platform or company.

So gamification provides us tools to create new user experiences that helps us to modify user’s behaviors. We shouldn’t forget that it’s all about user experience. For instance, the initial FourSquare success was to use game mechanics in order to make geolocation sharing fun, so if every location service will user the same game mechanics, there would be no reason for users to prefer FourSquare to any other geolocation service. And the main failure for FourSquare is that they are not being able to generate meaningful user experiences for advanced users of their service, so as I wrote in a previous post, the problem is not that gamification is not helping them to engage advanced users, the problem is that they have only focused on giving new users a reason to share their location, and they should design game mechanics focused on the user experience of advanced users.

If you are thinking about how gamification can help your business, you should state what is your actual state and problems, and what are your desired goals, and then design game mechanics and a coherent game narrative in order to generate the user experiences that will encourage your users to behave as you need them to behave in order to achieve your business goals.