Gamification is the application of gaming techniques in non-gaming environments. Bo Krüger explains how you can use gamification to take your events to the next level.
Hi Bo. Welcome to our studio.
Thank you very much.
We’re going to talk about gamification, but can you first explain what this is?
I guess all of us would play games in different locations, but gamification is not exactly the games the way we used to know it. Gamification is about bringing game components, game elements and game principles into non-game context. So you use some of all the good dynamics, all the magic from games. For example, in a meeting to create a better meeting.
Why should you do that?
For me it’s quite obvious. I play games myself. I’ve done that all of my life. Do you play games, Kevin?
Yeah, of course I do.
Computer games and board games?
I think all of us who play games we know that sometimes you can get absorbed into the game. You play for hours sometimes, you can’t even stop if you play computer games. And we have statistics showing that Americans, for example, more than 5 million Americans, play more than 45 hours of computer games every week.
That’s a lot.
Yeah, it’s like all of the population in Denmark playing all the time pretty much. So obviously here we have a lot of motivation going on. Some people would say that we are sometimes over motivated. We have difficulty stopping our children from playing computer games. At the same time we have a lot of areas in the business world, where we have troubles motivating people, for example, in meetings. So why not pick some of the elements, the magic from games and put it into different settings to motivate people even more.
Can you give us an example of what that can be?
Yeah, not a meeting example, but an example that others know already is TripAdvisor. They use a lot of different game elements. So whenever you do a review on TripAdvisor you will gain points. When you’ve done a certain amount of reviews you will move up a level and you will become a more experienced reviewer... and you will get access to new services. And you get also get feedback which is the social part of the game from other travelers, how they like your reviews and so on. All these things are typical game elements where you have points and levels and you have progression. You have a social part where you interact with other game participants.
The same things can apply to events for meetings?
Yes. For example, I mean, I don’t work so much with the digital part. I know some of the digital meeting providers, app providers. They’ve tried to create more gamified environments in their apps. But what I usually work with, is live games. For example, one of my classical games, which is quite popular is a game for people to get to know each other, it’s called Network Bingo. I don’t know if you know this game?
No, never played it.
No, okay. But everyone likes to play bingo, or at least everyone knows bingo. You know, you have played and then you are about to fill in the plate as fast as possible. In Network Bingo you give all the meeting participants a bingo plate. In the bingo plate you have different kinds of information. For example, it says someone from Belgium, someone with more than 10 years of experience in the field. Someone who likes to sing in the shower and so on. And then you ask the participants to fill in the plate as quickly as possible by interacting with the rest of the participants. So you have to find people that fit the information. And whenever you’ve filled in your bingo plate you will scream bingo. It works. You can do this with 1,000 people and they love it, and it makes people interact really, really, fast. So this is for me a good example of how you can use a game like structure. Game elements from a game people know already, to motivate them and make them do something which is useful for the aim of the meeting.
Can you use it always or are there also pitfalls you need to avoid?
Yeah, there are a lot of pitfalls actually, and I see them all the time. I think a lot of people try to work with gamification to make their meetings more interesting and motivating. But for me the biggest pitfall is that people think that gamification is all about competition and rewards. So they think that if you set up a competition between the meeting participants, and give maybe big prizes to the winners then you make a gamified concept. But the truth is that we have research showing that competition is really a dangerous format to work with. Because usually what happens is that the winners will be happy, those on top of the leaderboard. Whereas everyone else will be more or less unhappy and demotivated. So often what happens when we make a leaderboard, for example, I see that in a lot of conferences, is that we make a few people a little happy and a lot of people more unhappy. And when we give rewards we have psychological research telling us that when you start giving people rewards, they expect rewards all the time, and you can actually kill intrinsic motivation. So there are a lot of things that people will do without any rewards at all. Talk to other people, work with a challenging task and so on. If you start rewarding that all the time, people will actually stop doing it, unless you give them something. So then actually the opposite happens what we want to happen, which is that we kill motivation instead of helping it. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does make sense. But what are the elements you can use? How do you still keep it fun for them?
That’s exactly the main part because a game should be fun. A good game, the game is rewarding in itself. It’s not important and necessary to be the winner. A little bit of competition can be fine, but not so much. And it’s not important to get a reward because the game is fun in itself. For example, to make a puzzle, a Jigsaw, if you do that you don’t need a reward. It’s simply interesting to finish the puzzle. And those are the best games, where you do things simply because it’s fun to do. And usually the way I develop gamified concepts is I will look into games that already exist, like bingo. And I’ll say: okay, if I try to change this into a meeting concept what would it look like? Because people know the concept already and we already have proof of concept, because people have been playing bingo or similar games for maybe hundreds of years. So we know it works. So there must be some kind of fun into this and can be applied into the game. A simple concept that I think a lot of people know, which is also gamification, is quizzes. They just like to show that they’re clever. They just like to crack nuts. So give people difficult quizzes is always fun. And you don’t necessarily need to reward that, and you don’t need a leading board necessarily to do that. It can still be fun. You can do it in many, many different ways.
If I’m correct I see the Meeting Design Game.
Yeah. I don’t know if you can see it here?
Yeah. I can see.
Okay. This is also a way where you use game elements to engage people. I’ve been working with meeting design for many, many years now, and you probably have people in the studio talking about meeting design. Which is a way of designing meetings where you not only take care of the logistics, but also the content of the meeting and how you work with the content. And actually it’s a quite difficult concept to explain. I’ve done a lot of training and people like it, but they’re still a little bit confused. Then I turn it into a card game with my colleague, Anne Hansen, we created a card game where we put all the design elements into cards. And we made a very simple game where you take all of these cards, and you prioritize to find out what fits your meeting and then you can pick some new cards. So it’s a simple game of having some nice design cards, and make a lot of choices together with your co-players. And we found out that by doing that people were so much more engaged, and they understood the concept of meeting designs so much faster than any power-point could ever do. The principle here is that you take a difficult content from a meeting and put it on cards. And you make a simple game where people have to prioritize and choose. You can play a game like this with several hundred people. You can put them around tables in a big room, and you can design a game which fits the content and objectives of that meeting and make people play the game. It will be much more engaging and interactive and much more fun than a power-point presentation, for example. There are loads of examples on how you can do that, do all kinds. Also board games with the tile and role cards and pick cards, that have maybe a little bit of competition. Not too much, and it’s very effective.
In traditional board game design they always have a lot of testers. People who test whether the game is fun, whether it works well. If you design a game for your meeting or event I suppose that’s the same, you have to test it upfront.
Yeah, the first thing when you design a game you have to know of course what are the objectives, so why are we playing this game. Because one of the pitfalls is that the game dynamics are stronger than the content. So it all becomes about the game and not about learning the content. The first thing you should do is you should think like a gamer. So you should look at the participants not as participants in a meeting, but as players in a game. You should consider: if you play a game what would make you play the game and continue playing the game? For example, a game is nice to play if the design is cool, that people love the design. In the beginning I made it on post-it notes. It still worked, but it’s so much cooler when you have a nice design for example. And also it should be challenging. Many games are too easy. It’s not fun to play a game that’s too easy. It has to be really difficult actually. Not too difficult though. Also it should be fun. What I see sometimes is people try to say something which is really boring. Content which is really boring, and then they stick points to it or competition or leaderboards or backers,
But it’s still boring.
That’s the problem. Because the game is not fun. What I usually do is I will play the game with my friends and family and test it a couple of times, and then I will find, you know, safe environments to test it before I go out in a big group. For example, I was testing the Meeting Design Game in a training course with MPI, the stuff from MPI in Texas. It was just a prototype and everyone in the training course asked afterwards: can we keep this game, can we keep this game? Then we did it again in another training course and people said the same all the time: can we keep it? Then you know you’ve got something going there, so we started to create a full game.
Okay, Bo, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on gamification.
Okay. Can I say one more thing?
You should consider gamify your TV concept here. You know, have something like progression bars or things where you can do things, to make it even more fun and interesting to look at.
That’s an idea. Thank you, Bo.
Okay. Thank you.
You at home thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.