The Gamification of Online Communities

[Online] Golfstar, game update
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The online gaming industry has experienced tremendous success, currently estimated at $10.5 billion by the entertainment software industry. This incredible market share of consumer interest and revenue and runaway hits like Zenga’s Farmville have caused gaming best practices to spread to the larger web, and in particular online communities. Online content and community creators have noticed, and are seeking to gamify their efforts.

This process consists of integrating game components like badges, leaderboards, levels of difficulty, etc. into online communities, web site functions, and other aspects of non-game activity online. By gamifying online properties, organizations like the Huffington Post seek to offer some of the fun, challenging passion that online entertainment brings, and in turn, make their sites more compelling.

Gamifying boosts on site minutes, increases strength of community, and inspires more tangible outcomes. With intelligent calls to actions weaved into game elements, organizations can deliver more return on investment as well as strengthen loyalty. This can range from sales to bettering professional education programs.

Leaderboard

Two of 2010’s more compelling social web stories used gamification to strengthen their offering. Social fundraising hit Crowdrise has a leaderboard, contests, and point tabulations in addition to really funny copywriting on its site. The goal: Encourage more charitable acts. Influencer metric Klout uses gamification to make its badges and classification more fun, and encourage individuals to engage in better participatory tactics online.

Consider how the USA Network added gamification to its Psych TV network online. By adding game-like rewards to the program, NBCUniversal generated a 130 percent increase in page views for the network’s Psych show and a 40 percent increase in return visits.

Adam Singer recently wrote a great post about the need to balance social, email and SEO in a digital marketing program. Increasingly, bringing balance to a healthy online marketing program includes adding game elements to the mix.

Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, ” offered some advice to organizations considering adding game techniques at the Gamification Summit. She said, “If you’re trying to gamify something, you should be looking to turn [stakeholders] into super empowered helpful users. That’s what we become when we play a good game.”

Gamification is not easy, and requires knowledge of processes, research and best practices. There is a new boutique industry arising that serves organizations who want to add gamification elements and even games themselves to their online mix. For example, companies like Badgeville and Gamify can add game mechanics to a community.

Expect the continued trickle down effect of game elements into general online communications, and increased interest from online communicators about how to incorporate games and game technique into their repertoire. What do you think of gamification in online communities? Are you adding game elements to your online mix?

9 Replies to “The Gamification of Online Communities”

  1. We @techsoup have begun the initial stages of launching a Nonprofit Commons games community. So far, we have only had one meetup in NYC, to brainstorm, but we are planning some events and hopefully a collaboration with @G4C (Games for Change) I plan to attend this year’s G4C fest, and learn more about how nonprofits could use serious/social/mobile/locative games. http://groups.google.com/group/npcgames is the google group, if you’re interested.

  2. So what does empowerment look like? I think Jane is a great motivator for this movement but we need to nail down what meaningful engagement looks like. Crowdrise has done a bit of this in playful ways, looking at the value of social actions….but until we spend some quality time looking at how this engagement plays out over time we get just a snapshot, not an indication of true value to the life of an organization.

    Lots of nonprofits are adding game elements to their campaigns, from #TackleCF in December that raised $$$$$$ for the Boomer Esiason Foundation’s work on cystic fibrosis to the Relay for Life that works with teams and fundraisers to motivate local giving for cancer research. Gamification is not a new concept to many creative nonprofiteers trying to keep volunteers excited over the long haul with incentives and challenges designed to give the entire network a good dose of uplift.

    What are some of your favorite Nonprofit Games? Please join us on the google group Susan mentioned and I hope we can continue this conversation at SXSW, we’re hosting a playful conversation on Causebuilding Games that I would love for you to chime in on!

  3. So what does empowerment look like? I think Jane is a great motivator for this movement but we need to nail down what meaningful engagement looks like. Crowdrise has done a bit of this in playful ways, looking at the value of social actions….but until we spend some quality time looking at how this engagement plays out over time we get just a snapshot, not an indication of true value to the life of an organization.

    Lots of nonprofits are adding game elements to their campaigns, from #TackleCF in December that raised $$$$$$ for the Boomer Esiason Foundation’s work on cystic fibrosis to the Relay for Life that works with teams and fundraisers to motivate local giving for cancer research. Gamification is not a new concept to many creative nonprofiteers trying to keep volunteers excited over the long haul with incentives and challenges designed to give the entire network a good dose of uplift.

    What are some of your favorite Nonprofit Games? Please join us on the google group Susan mentioned and I hope we can continue this conversation at SXSW, we’re hosting a playful conversation on Causebuilding Games that I would love for you to chime in on!

    1. Evonne:

      Thanks for your comments, Evonne, and good luck to you and Susan at Sx. I would say that’s a very personal question for each nonprofit. Empowerment for the Red Cross may mean better training for crisis response, while for the National Wildlife Federation it may simply be education, and for LVIESTRONG it might be financial donations. A general post can’t define that for a specific cause. I wouldn’t even attempt to try it.

  4. I have a question about technical element of implementation of gamification elements into existing network such as Ning for example, who would be the best vendors in this area? 

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