Optimizer – Further Gamification Elements
As I stated in my previous blog post, I will be continuing the explanation of the application I am planning on developping as a case study for my master thesis. Last time I had finished discussing challenges and now I will move on to speak more on the profiles users can create and what game elements are attached to each activity they can undertake. A profile will contain the following information on a person, and most of this information users can choose themselves whether to make public or not.
- User Name, E-mail and Links: As with many platforms of this type, users can choose a nickname (or their real name) and need to leave an e-mail address to be used in validation and the like. Users can also choose to add some links to other sites, blogs and the like on their profile, but are naturally not obligated to do so.
- Number of Points: Users can choose to make public how many points they have accumulated over their time spent on the application. How they can earn these points I will stipulate in the next section.
- A Record of his/her Activity: Users can choose which elements to display, but a basic record of challenges accepted/achieved/rejected/issued, as well as how many achievements and more, the user has acquired, will be listed on the profile as well.
- Expertise: Users can also gain expertise in one or more tags. This occurs when they have gained a certain amount of positive scores on posts and comments they have made, related to that tag. The tag could be computer graphics, for example, which would allow others to see just how useful this person’s insights could be to them. Expertise comes in three levels: bronze, silver and gold, each represented by a simple icon. Each level requires more upvotes and also has a minimum amount of posts and/or comments required. So simply having one solution get 50 or more positive reactions from other users will not be enough to reach gold expertise.
A Game of Points
As I have discussed in previous posts, one has to be careful when handing out rewards in the form of points and the like for activities performed. The acquisition of these points may, under no circumstance, become the focal point of the application. Regardless, these points can prove very useful in achieving engagement if implemented in moderation and used solely as a small, extra tidbit for people to enjoy. Points can be gained in a wide variety of ways, interlacing them with all the activities and thereby making them relevant to anyone that has at least one game element that relates to them. The following are all ways to get points:
- Receiving positive reviews on posted solutions. (-5 subtracts points to a minimum of 0, +5 adds points.)
- Having a comment liked by another user. (+2 if liked by the post writer, +1 by others)
- Having a challenge you the user issued completed.
- Having a challenge track completed by another user, who can also add another point by leaving positive feedback on the track.
- Posting an new iteration, that receives a positive score, that is an improvement of a previous solution. (in other words, showing progress)
Each user has a certain level, which increases as they gained points, much like how experience levels work in roleplaying games. These levels unlock priviliges such as the ability to use a custom avatar, titles under the nicknames, emotes in posts and more. All small little extras so as not to place a large gap between newcomers and old-timers. Points will in this way be meaningful, but because the rewards that can be unlocked with these points are too significant, they won’t become the main driving force, they serve mostly as a welcome extra. Another use for points is that users can use them to acquire other ways to customize their profiles such as different layout styles, background images and the like. Once again, nothing too significant.
What do these Elements Accomplish?
It might be a bit tricky to see what, if anything, these elements accomplish in a gamification setting. Each element does correspond to what I had distilled using the table for mechanics and dynamics, but what they accomplish is not as clear cut as the table displays (it is after all a simplification).
The point of the challenges is quite clear. They will urge players on to think about their solutions, or those of others, and think on how to improve them to meet the challenges. The back and forth can also spark competition, but does not need to, allowing both types of users to get value from the element. The challenge tracks add a hint of user-generated content to the mix, while leaving the general purpose of challenges untouched. They also allow for badges/achievements to be added that are not meaningless and pointless. The point system is simple, as most are, but not I have attempted to keep it from being too intrusive so it does not overwhelm the application and take over, or turn it into a reward loop which will not be of much benefit to the users. Lastly, gaining points by getting good feedback on comments will stimulate people to use them for valuable communication, making certain that comments are not just a place to put “pats on the back”, or for bickering.
I can go into more depth on these elements, but I will leave that for my thesis itself. I hope the general concept of what I am working on is clear from this post, but there are paper prototypes incoming that I will post to the blog as well that might give a better idea, or at least allow you to visualize what this application would look and feel like.