Let the games begin…in new areas.
According to an excellent article by Sharon Begley in the July Smithsonian Magazine, “A growing community of scientists and engineers is borrowing the elements that make video or computer games so addictive—rewards, points, leaderboards and online collaboration—to enlist thousands of players to solve legitimate scientific mysteries.”
According to the article, a game called Superbetter helps users recover from illness and injury. Foldit “asks you to determine the 3-D shape of a protein” and actually may lead to new AIDS drugs. “So there I sat at my computer one rainy Sunday,” Begley wrote, “dragging models of amino acids with my mouse and clicking commands such as ‘wiggle’ and ‘shake’ with the determination of a gamer rescuing an imaginary princess.”
This brings gamification to a new level—to be more exploratory and active for the user. Can this translate to B2B or B2C? Should you have a section of your publication or website designed to solve a problem in your industry? Should your next webinar leave the viewer with an interesting dilemma to ponder over and contribute? The important thing to remember is that it has to be fun. Begley is happily spending her Sunday at this.
So far in the B2B and B2C realm we’ve seen games used mostly for engagement and lead generation. I wrote about the successful NJ Family Contest that Cindy Mironovich runs every year. Readers nominate their favorite doctors, dentists, speech/language therapists, and many other professionals, “who work hard to keep kids healthy.” It’s good lead generation because readers have to provide their contact information in order to nominate.
Donna Jefferson’s Chesapeake Family also runs contests throughout the year—Win Big With Chesapeake Family! (Check out the online ads she attracts.) Kiplinger continues to offer its quizzes—“The Investor Psychology Quiz or Do You Agree With Knight (Kiplinger, the head of the company)? Cablefax does a quick poll. The New Yorker continues its caption contest.
That last one probably comes closest to this new level for B2C or B2B. It’s asking readers to contribute content that may be used in the magazine. If someone on our Listserv is asking for a Conference track more suited for introverts—as they did last week—should we then convert that into a game to design the perfect such track? (In fact, the Listserv, when going well, does function somewhat in that manner already.)
“[Games are] something we’ve grown up with,” Joel Rothstein, VP, technology, strategy and innovation, Global Information Resources, for Marriott International, told us in Las Vegas last year. “We remember when we played video games in arcades when we were young, and had your initials next to the high score for whatever game of PACman or Asteroids. Now, we want those same points for being experts in our field—to make sure people know who we are and that our opinions matter. We want to build our online reputations and further our professional endeavors.”
Rothstein said it was Chairman J.W. Marriott, Jr. himself, who came up with the very first game on the Marriott website. It was called Dream Tracker and allowed users to create the vacation they wanted. It also accomplished what today’s gamification has mostly strived for: it kept people coming back to the site, engaged them, tracked what they were doing, and got families/communities involved.
Now games may get them more involved. Begley concludes: “It’s this tinkering approach, this trial and error, that is the basis of play. Beginning when we could hold a rattle, we all learned to solve problems by playing with them. Only now we can all play and contribute to science, too.” Or fill in your own blank.
To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.