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 Trend Report: The Future of Payments & Currency

2014 iPad App

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • 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

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Nanosensor

    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock

     

  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm

    Breather

    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

  • Barco Escape’s immersive screens
    September 11, 2014 | 4:15 pm

    Maze Runner

    Escape is a triple-screen system from Barco that “allows you to truly be in the movies, not just at the movies”—in line with the rise of immersive experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond. Audiences at five U.S. locations and one Belgian cinema will get their first taste of the concept with next week’s release of The Maze Runner, about a group of teens trapped in a massive maze, which will feature about five minutes of immersive footage at key moments. ScreenX is among the other multi-screen, multi-projection cinema experiences we’ve highlighted. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Maze Runner

  • “Smart” personal safety
    September 2, 2014 | 6:01 pm

    Defender

    Earlier this year we wrote about the Guardian Angel, a pendant that alerts emergency contacts whenever wearers feel unsafe, created by JWT Singapore. Smart technology is addressing personal safety in other ways too. The Defender is a smart pepper spray that works in tandem with a mobile app, taking a picture of an attacker while contacting authorities. It’s in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign that has well exceeded its goal. Similarly, First Sign has crowdfunded a smart hairclip that detects physical assault, records the evidence and sends for help.

    Meanwhile, college campuses are embracing a more basic form of this tech, encouraging students to download apps like Rave Guardian and Circle of 6, which enable a chosen network to monitor a student’s GPS location during a night out. In a different vein, students at North Carolina State University made headlines last week for their Undercover Nail Polish, which changes color in the presence of “date rape drugs.” —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: The Defender

  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am

    Nestle

    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nestlé

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »