Coursera is brilliant. They offer free online courses from some top universities. For the last few months I’ve been taking a Gamification course run by Prof Kevin Werbach at the Wharton School, UPenn.
Gamification is a fascinating new area where businesses are applying game elements and mechanics to non-game activities. The point of this is not to turn everything into a game, but more subtly, to enhance people’s motivation to engage in their task.
Sight is a great video that explores some of the possibilities and pitfalls of gamification. It’s by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo – their graduation project from Bezaleal academy of arts. It’s a bit of a masterpiece – definitely worth watching.
My final project on the course was a 1500 word written assignment. Very enjoyable homework it was too. Here it is.
Project Part III: Design Document
Now that you know the essential concepts about gamification and game design, it’s time to use them. For this final task, we ask you to bridge this gap as you meld creativity and structure to match peoples’ needs with technical feasibility and business realities.
You are approached by Cheyenne Kendrick, the CEO of Go Digital Press (GDP), a global publisher of electronic books for devices such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. She knows you are one of the top experts on gamification, which she has heard can revolutionize publishing. She asks you to present a proposal for a gamified system to take her business to the next level.
GDP concentrates on the trade segment of the book market, i.e. non-fiction publications that would traditionally appear in bookstores, rather than mass-market paperbacks. Approximately 50% of its titles are targeted at business professionals; 25% are educational resources on technical topics such as computer programming; and the remainder address a variety of different subjects.
As a pioneer in e-book publishing, GDP faces the challenge that many users, even in the U.S., do not yet own reader devices. As of April 2012, only 21% of American adults reported that they had read an e-book in the past year, although those numbers are increasing rapidly. Kendrick tells you that another concern is that the device manufacturers and their associated distribution platforms control the sales process, making it difficult for publishers such as GDP to obtain data or develop direct customer relationships. On the positive side, an e-book is a flexible digital asset, which can offer interactive features beyond any physical book. Kendrick asks you to propose a way to gamify the distribution or consumption of e-books, or both.
Provide a detailed description of your proposal, organized according to the design framework described in the lectures in Unit 7:
1. Define business objectives
2. Delineate target behaviors
3. Describe your players
4. Devise activity loops
5. Don’t forget the fun!
6. Deploy the appropriate tools
Gamification Design Framework
1. Define business objectives
Go Digital Press seeks to increase revenues by:
- encouraging more people to use e-readers – there is a massive untapped market
- reducing reliance on device manufacturers/existing platforms – currently a risk – GDP’s eggs are all in Amazon’s basket
- developing relationships with customers – impossible through current distribution channels
- obtaining usage data for sales & marketing analysis and helpful feedback for authors – equally impossible through current channels
2. Delineate target behaviors
- Encourage readers to read more e-books
(measurement: total e-books read)
- Encourage readers to share their reading to social media channels like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn etc.
(measurement: total social mentions)
- Generate more new customers
(measurement: total new customers)
- Encourage readers to engage with GDP through the app in the form of reviews, ratings, quizzes, discussions
(measurement: total engaged readers)
3. Describe your players
If we look at how the reader will engage and what motivates them, there are 4 types of reader:
- Reading is Fun
Readers motivated largely by reading for its intrinsic value. For GDP this segment is currently somewhere below 25% of their customer base. They may be motivated further by sharing their progress or things they like with friends. Under Bartle’s framework you might equate this group with the Socialisers.
- Reading is Knowledge
Readers motivated by the desire to learn. This is somewhere around 25-50% of GDP’s base (those reading educational books and some of the business readers). This segment may be motivated further by being offered the next book to read in their category, by sharing how well read they are with their peers, by engaging with other readers in discussions on their subjects, including Q&As type forums. We might think of these as Bartle’s Explorers.
- Reading is Power
Readers motivated by the advancement their reading will get them in their careers. This will be the remaining 25-50% of business readers and some of the education readers. This segment may be motivated by being able to demonstrate what is normally intangible to employers – posting their reading history to sites like LinkedIn or via links attached to their resumé. They may want to set/answer quizzes to earn badges demonstrating their understanding of a subject – obtaining additional credibility they can point to. Bartle’s Achievers.
- Reading is Winning
Some readers may overlap with any of the groups above but also enjoy an additional competitive element and want to feel like they are winning relative to other readers. This group will be motivated by progress badges relating to their reading record, by completing major quests (reading whole categories), by being in the top xth percentile for certain statistical categories, by having a really high Flesch-Kincaid reading level, etc. These are mostly Achievers as well, but there will be some of Bartle’s Killers here too.
4. Devise activity loops
- Engagement Loops: Motivation-Action-Feedback
At completion points throughout the books, the reader will be able to take various actions depending on what motivates them, eg:
- sharing progress with their friends on twitter > feedback = public recognition
- sharing/quoting parts they like with friends on facebook > feedback = social reward for sharing
- sharing insights they’ve discovered with colleagues on LinkedIn > Displays subject authority to co-workers or recruiters
- rating the chapter > Self-reinforcement that the reader is enjoying the book
- leaving a review > Providing feedback for others
- answering (or writing) quiz questions > demonstrates expert status
- Progression Loops: Reader Journeys
- Initially the customer will be offered a selection of free e-books to get them started
- As they complete sections the engagement loops will be taking effect and giving the reader little rewards like badges and statistical feedback each time they log in
- On completion of their first book the reader will be offered the next challenge, a choice of another free book or some paid titles in a similar vein to their first
- The reader will be offered progressively more difficult quests which earn them badges and titles (eg read the three books of the Lord of the Rings, then read LoTR, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion, then the Top 10 Fantasy books, etc).
- As they get through the quests they are invited to form “e-book clubs” so they can complete Team Quests
- As the reader gains mastery, expert features unlock to allow them to set quizzes for others and contribute more to the forums, award other readers reputation etc, set challenges and quests for others and so on
5. Don’t forget the fun
Even if you strip out all the reward elements (free e-books, badges, being able to publish your expert status to your LinkedIn/resumé, the app would still be fun because the following elements would all still be there:
- Reading is inherently fun for most people anyway
- If you can develop a slightly more enjoyable environment to read than competitor Kindle/Nook/iBooks then that is of value to readers
- The sharing motivator is powerful – being able to quote easily to Facebook would be popular with many readers
- People enjoy discussing books but don’t always have anyone to discuss with – in-app forums linked to the book/author make this quick and easy
- People love quizzes, making it easy to set and answer quizzes will motivate people (especially answering an author-set quiz)
- The statistical feedback would be a motivator for many people
- Completing collections is a powerful motivator
- Working as a team to complete a quest is much the same but combines the social element
6. Deploy the appropriate tools… The Proposed Solution for GDP
An e-reader app called WellRead, available for free download on all smartphone and mobile platforms, but also accessible through a normal website. Customers sign up and download books to WellRead just like the Kindle or iBooks. However, WellRead goes beyond the basic e-reader.
When you log in for the first time, an onboarding routine takes you through how WellRead works and how to get the most out of it. It helps you download your first book (you can choose a free book or get a paid book at a discount) and you earn your first achievements/badges as you learn how to get started.
The key engagement with WellRead is sharing.
At any point in a book you can “like” that part to Facebook/Twitter, giving your friends a link to that part of the book on WellRead. Similarly you can post a favourite quote from the book directly to Facebook as your status, just by selecting the line and hitting “quote to Facebook”.
WellRead posts your progress to Facebook/Twitter (you can control if it posts at the end of each book or chapter). The more business-minded may post to LinkedIn instead – readers may wish to leave their own wise commentary on their selected quote.
All of this serves the dual-purpose of showing the world how WellRead you are, but also invites others to the WellRead app.
What makes WellRead really unique though is the stats it records and the way it uses the data.
As you read, in the background WellRead logs your reading stats – the total number of books you’ve read, how many chapters, pages, paragraphs, sentences, words… even letters! It logs your reading time, reading pace (some parts of books you’ll read more slowly than others), even Flesch-Kincaid reading level.
When you log into WellRead you get a splash screen with a small bit of feedback on your statistical progress -eg “over 20,000 words read since June 2012″. This isn’t intended to be a big motivator but it’s a small reinforcement to the reader. The metric (words/chapters/paragraphs/letters) rotate each time you open the app to give you a random bit of interesting feedback. This is available in My Account, which also links to leaderboards.
This usage data is available back to the authors (in anonymised form), telling them which bits of books people enjoy, which parts they find difficult. Very useful information – the kind of thing that will attract high quality authors to GDP.
Having read your first book, WellRead offers you suggestions to read next, or for the more ambitious, a selection of challenges. Initially a 2-3 book collection for the first challenge, then increasing numbers as the reader progresses in each category. Team challenges add a social dimension (invite your friends).
Those readers with a business/education angle can publish their e-bookshelves. If the reader has many badges and has completed quizzes and answered questions, that demonstrate their understanding of a subject in a quick and easy way that formal certification can’t do. WellRead doesn’t replace formal qualifications but “Expert” badges can act as a basic certificate for potential recruiters.
Readers that are very engaged in the WellRead community will post on the discussion forums and as they gain experience and level up, they unlock more features, giving them access to set quizzes and quests, moderate discussions and so on.