Points, levels, badges, challenges, and leaderboards oh my!
Having played games much of my life, I’ve thought their function was to entertain us (although education is also possible).
Whatever the purpose is, one has to acknowledge that people enjoy interacting with systems and routines that challenge and reward them. From this psychological perspective then, there are lessons to be learned from game theory and mechanics, which can be applied to marketing, behavior change, and interaction design.
In reading Gamification by Design, the authors do a great job describing various types of games people play, motivations that keep them engaged, and how to employ tactics for doing so. In 109 pages (core topics) it’s an excellent primer that will help dispel many myths and biases against using game techniques.
Note: O’Reilly Media offered me a review copy of this book. While it was enjoyable, I recommend buying it from Amazon at $12 from 3rd party resellers. Alternatively, someone told me that Gabe’s other book, Game-Based Marketing, was a great book. So that may be of more interest to you.
For those of you who don’t care to explicitly make a game someday with such prominent features like points and badges, I still recommend reading and keeping it around for reference. For those very interested in gaming however, this book will be lite-fare, introductory material.
The more we can imagine ourselves as participants in designed interactions, the better we can build and adapt them for long term use and effectiveness. As an excellent complement, I suggest reading Emotional Design by Donald Norman.