January 12, 2011

Q&A with Gabe Zichermann, chair of Gamification Summit and Workshops

Posted by: in North America

Gabe ZichermannAs a self-described “gamification thought leader,” Gabe Zichermann makes a case for using gaming principles to motivate and engage consumers. He co-authored Game-Based Marketing and chairs the Gamification Summit, which takes place later this month in San Francisco. We spoke with him about one of our 10 Trends for 2011,” All the World’s a Game—the idea that brands will increasingly apply game mechanics (leader boards, leveling, stored value, privileges, superpowers, status indicators, etc.) to non-gaming spaces in an attempt to drive certain actions or behaviors.

You talk about “Big G” gaming—video games—versus “little g” gaming—gaming mechanics in non-game categories. How is the larger concept of “games” changing?

Whenever you use the word game, people immediately think of something. Something pops into their head, and that invariably clouds their judgment about everything I say after the word game.

I gave a talk at the New York Tech Meetup. There were about 700 people in the room, and I started by asking, “When I say the word game, how many of you think World of Warcraft?” About 30 percent of the audience put their hand up. “OK, how many of you think Farmville?” About 30 percent of the audience put their hand up. “How many of you think Foursquare?” And 10 people put their hand up, which is a small number of people. But nine months prior, that number would have been zero.

The rapid shift in the definition of games is a big part of gamification. Our understanding is colored by the fact that three generations of people have been irrevocably changed by their exposure to games. It’s in subtle ways we don’t even think about consciously, and we call that game thinking. We’ve been exposed to games, and now we start to unpack and solve problems using metaphors we’ve learned in games and techniques we’re accustomed to learning from games.

And this is super profound. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a really substantial thing. It has broad-reaching implications for all kinds of products, services and human-computer interaction. My favorite metaphor for describing the shift is that if Shakespeare were a real person—and we’re not sure he ever was—he famously wrote “All the world’s a stage.” But in reality, if he’d been alive today, he’d have written “All the world is a game.” Simply because it’s the best metaphor for describing our interaction with the world.

How is gamification changing marketing?

Gamification is rewriting economics for marketing, both in terms of customer acquisition and in terms of loyalty programming. Gamification at its core is a process, and it’s different for everybody. But it’s not like some magic guy behind a curtain who waves this wand and makes everything more fun. It’s incremental. It’s perpetual. I think every corporation will have a chief engagement officer whose job is to focus on nothing but customer engagement as their full-time gig. It’s different from marketing; it’s a very specialized position. And we’re already starting to see elements of that.

Can brands in every category use game mechanics to increase engagement?

There’s almost no cases where game mechanics wouldn’t help. Let’s use an example of cancer, which we don’t generally think of as very fun, right? If you define the objective for cancer in this frame as improving outcomes—reducing mortality and improving quality of life—I don’t know whether we could develop a capital “G” game that would do that. But I do know that if we put a patient on a reward system for taking their medicine and following the protocol, they’re likely to adhere to it better. And I also know that if we take doctors and we apply the same kind of idea—a reward system that encourages them to follow the protocol and deal with patients appropriately—that we will also shape their behavior in a positive way.

So I can’t definitively tell you that I can make cancer treatment fun. But I know I can increase engagement of the parties involved and therefore drive their behavior in a particular way. So if cancer can be affected by it broadly, so can much more commercial ideas like shopping or eating or entertainment or travel or sex or whatever.

All the World's a Game

In your book you mention Bartle’s four player types. What are they, and how do they appeal to different motivations?

Richard Bartle is one of the first researchers to look at how games affect behavior. In the early ’80s, by watching people play massive multi-player online games, he observed four player types, so four different reasons why people play. And those four types have since become 16 or so types. But the four turned out to be very enduring:

Achievers are people who like to win. They like to be successful. And the classic challenge with Achievers is that not everybody can win, which creates a real design challenge. And the second thing is they actually make up the minority of the population. They make up only about 10 percent of the population. But most of the people designing games are Achievers.

The average person is what we call a Socializer. They’re after lightweight, non-confrontational, easy-to-reciprocate social interactions. We estimate that about 80 percent of the population are principally driven to socialize.

Explorers make up about 10 percent of the population. They like to find things. If you ever played Super Mario Brothers, you might remember that some people pre-Internet knew where all the hidden levels were. They were playing the game over hundreds of hours, testing every single pipe and every single opening in the bricks. So this person is really motivated by a desire to find something new and get credibility from the market for that new thing they’ve discovered.

The last group, which is the most controversial and the one that always gets giggles, are the Killers. And the Killers are a lot like Achievers, except it’s not only enough for me to win—I have to win, and you have to lose. And not only do you have to lose, everyone needs to see you lose and me win. And ideally, you need to give me props and respect for having killed. Killers make up a small percentage of the population, less than 1 percent, but they have an out-sized influence on the outcome, particularly in community websites like media-oriented websites or forums, where there are frequently users who play to kill all the time.

If looked at from another way, the Killers are the most passionate advocates for your platform. They just happen to be channeling their energy in a bad way. A typical Web designer or editorial person thinks, “Let’s find some way to block them.” Game designers think about what motivates that user, what they’re actually after, and puts that out as a reward—if they follow a process that we want them to follow. So it’s the carrot instead of the stick.

What is the future of game mechanics offline?

It’s hard to do offline. It doesn’t mean you can’t connect online and offline together. Zynga had a very successful promotion with 7-Eleven … and Chase Bank’s “Pick Up the Tab” promotion kind of melds the two. The actual win occurs over SMS, which is a digital format, but the transaction is a physical transaction. So there are ways to connect the two.

Where is gamification in the hype cycle?

There’s definitely going to be a moment at which there is game saturation in the market, but I think that’s at least five years away. Between now and 2014-15, it’s an absolute arms race to get as much positive, mechanistic stuff going on with gamification and brands.

When JetBlue launched, they said, “We don’t need a frequent flier program. We’re a new kind of airline. Our experience is so much better and so much nicer, our planes are so much cleaner and our employees are so much more friendly, and everything is so much nicer, we don’t need a frequent flier program.” It turns out the frequent flier program is the product, and the airline is secondary. And JetBlue learned that lesson. They had to introduce their frequent flier program.

The same exact thing is going to happen in literally every industry, including the government. I think they too are coming under pressure to use game mechanics to improve outcomes. And I think some of the more academically interesting startups out there are focused on health because it’s such a gigantic market opportunity. You could learn a lot about motivational dynamics from what they’re trying to do in the health gamification space.

Photo credit: Sion Fullana

2 Responses to "Q&A with Gabe Zichermann, chair of Gamification Summit and Workshops"

1 | Collier Ward

January 15th, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Avatar

I am a licensed architect (a building architect, that is, rather than some new tech derivation of the term) thinking long and hard about the future of my profession.

Design and construction are so grounded in bricks and mortar and the forces of nature that we still conduct business much like we did a century ago.

Sure, we draw and model with computers, but how do our processes and products reflect life in the info age? Architecture WILL change, but I’m not sure how.

Is there a gamification of architecture on the horizon? I would just “kill” to figure this out!

2 | Frank

October 10th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Avatar

@Coller Ward

I’m no expert in either gamification or architecture, but I would think that it would be more difficult to apply gamification to something like architecture, bc architecture does not require customers in the same way a company like Coke does bc of the frequency of use. If you have a client, and he likes your work on a project, he’ll use you again on another project. And each project takes a long period of time. Coke, on the other hand, is a product that people buy very often.

So I would think that an architect doesn’t need the constant interaction of other types of often repeatable purchases.

Comment Form

SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER:

New: The Future 100

The Future of Payments & Currency

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • Tears become… streams become…
    December 17, 2014 | 1:50 pm

    Artists and performers are increasingly creating multisensory pieces that immerse and envelope audiences, who in turn are embracing these one-of-a-kind experiences. In New York, the latest example is the performance and installation tears become… streams become…, a “field of water that harnesses light, reflection, music and sound” by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon and French pianist Hélène Grimaud.

    Continue reading “Tears become… streams become…” »

  • The Glade Boutique
    December 11, 2014 | 5:16 pm

    More marketers across the spectrum are creating novel pop-ups and activities that add dimension to the brand and satisfy consumer interest in experiences. These experiences are also increasingly interactive, immersive and multisensory, as our past trend reports have discussed. In line with these trends, a Glade Boutique holiday pop-up in New York City’s Meatpacking district, created with fashion designer Pamela Dennis and interior designer Stephanie Goto, features five rooms themed around “scent-inspired feelings,” like relaxation and “energized” (complete with an Oculus Rift virtual thrill ride).

    The pop-up is a departure for the mass-market candle brand: It has no outside signage, just a keyhole with a neon sign asking, “What will you feel?” Inside, with white walls and polished concrete floors, there’s all the cues of a groovy concept store. Visitors walk past a terrarium to the “Feelings Lounge”—sofas arranged around an objet-bedecked coffee table—then find the new collection of candles covered in bell jars for sampling the scents, akin to the merchandising format of ultra-luxe candle brand Cire Trudon. There’s also a backlit installation made up of hundreds of Glade candles.

  • Cheap-phone wars
    December 3, 2014 | 11:54 am

    Obi Mobiles

    Mobile brands are creating cheaper, stripped-down smartphones for emerging markets, competing with domestic brands producing their own low-cost phones. The field is getting more competitive with Obi Mobiles from former Apple CEO John Sculley, which targets young, image-conscious consumers. Obi launched recently in India, the Middle East and Singapore, and plans for further expansion in 2015.

    Obi will be taking on Chinese up-and-comer Xiaomi, which is entering five new markets this year. Meanwhile, Google launched the Android One OS in India last month in tandem with several domestic brands, which are pricing the phones at around $100. Prices will get lower still, at least for the most basic smartphones: Mozilla has announced plans to sell phones that use its Firefox OS in India and Africa for just $25. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Obi Mobiles

  • Snapcash
    November 19, 2014 | 4:54 pm


    Disruption in the payments sphere is opening the way for social media brands to act as intermediaries between consumers and their money, as we note in our report on payments and currency. Facebook is said to be planning a P2P payments feature for Messenger, South Korea’s KakaoTalk announced a PayPal-like service in September, and Line is creating a mobile service that will let users make on- and offline purchases. Now, Snapchat is partnering with Square to enable payments between users, as explained in this video’s energetic retro musical number.

    After users (U.S. only and 18-plus only) enter debit card info, they simply send a cash amount within a text. While Snapchat’s recent data breaches may give some users pause, the P2P payments space is a smart place to be as young consumers get accustomed to services like Venmo that make it easy and even fun to pay friends. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Payment in a heartbeat
    November 11, 2014 | 5:26 pm

    Nymi-paywith

    Our recent report on the future of payments and currency spotlights the rise of biometric payments—using a unique physical characteristic to authenticate transactions—which promise to greatly improve security and help remove friction. So far we’ve seen systems that rely on fingerprints (e.g., Apple Pay) and the palm’s unique vein payment (see Quixter). Now, the startup Bionym is exploring ways to harness its Nymi wristband, which uses the wearer’s unique cardiac rhythm as authentication, for payments.

    Bionym is linking with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada for a test in which an NFC chip in the wristband enables contactless payments. The company, which is looking to license its technology into other wearables, recently raised $14 million in a Series A funding round and has racked up 10,000 preorders for the Nymi. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nymi

  • Vegetable co-stars
    November 4, 2014 | 6:31 pm

    veggies_4

    “Vegetable co-stars” is one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2014—the idea that veggies are gaining a higher profile on restaurant menus—and more star chefs are indeed embracing this trend. José Andrés and his ThinkFood restaurant group plan to open Beefsteak (as in tomatoes), a vegetable-focused fast casual eatery in Washington, D.C., next year. The Washington Post also points to chef Roy Choi’s new greenhouse-like Commissary in L.A., which says it serves “good food and drink based around plants as the foundation.”

    “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate—and sometimes off it altogether,” notes The Wall Street Journal, citing examples like Alain Ducasse revamping his menu at the posh Plaza Athénée in Paris. Catering to a growing group of diners looking to eat less meat, vegetable-heavy dishes also offer new opportunities for creativity. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Plaza Athénée

  • Xiaomi zooms ahead
    October 30, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    Xiaomi, which we included on our 100 Things to Watch in 2014 list, is now the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. The young company has seen triple-digit year-over-year growth in smartphone shipments, per IDC, surging ahead of both LG and Lenovo. Often described as the “Apple of China,” Xiaomi released its first phone just three years ago; its latest, Mi4, is an iPhone clone that runs on a modified version of Android.

    The company is expanding beyond China into India and Singapore, and planning to enter a slew of other growth markets, including Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. For more on whether Chinese brands can succeed on the world stage, see our report Remaking “Made in China.”Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Xiaomi

     

  • Money & messaging apps
    October 23, 2014 | 11:13 am

    LINE_icon02

    Given the primary function of mobile messaging apps and their technical capabilities, money transfer and payments are an alluring proposition, as outlined in our new report on payments and currency. Snapchat filed two trademarks in July that indicate a potential move into peer-to-peer payments. The recently announced Line Pay will let Line users make purchases through their Line accounts, send funds to each other, and split costs using a “Dutch Pay” feature. Line Pay will launch in Japan and, as Tech in Asia reports, serve as “an entrance to new industries” thanks to integration with the new Line Taxi service and Line Wow, for food delivery. In South Korea, KakaoTalk launched the PayPal-like Kakao Pay in September, and a remittance service, Bank Wallet Kakao, is in the works. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Line

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm

    Circle

    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »