True gamification: What Google Maps has to learn from Supercell

I am in San Francisco battling jet lag, trying to sleep at the local time. But not so far away from me a group of kids is blaring out music.  It is an international bunch of kids in their twenties and they are playing from their phones what they think the others will like.  You could call it “party classics” in a way.  But Spotify will never know these songs.  These are the ones someone chose because he thought a bunch of strangers will like them.  The good ones you know because they all sing out of tune and slightly drunk.  Either the boys are heard more or the girls, depending on the appeal.  Sometimes both together, boy, they must be too shy to get on to sex so they keep listening I suppose.  The failed songs are changed after the first chorus when they see lack of traction with the audience.

It is vitally important to really listen to what is going on in the world and your target market.  “We are gamifying the platform” they say in software with conviction.  They mean you now have a goal, some medals or some levels to complete.  Whether it is Google Maps, a school or some old fashioned application with a face lift, the story is the same.  Way too little, way too late.

It is called “gamification” for a reason.  It is meant to be like games.  Modern games though.  Stop looking ten years behind and look at the games that do well today.  How do they motivate users? I have my kids to thank for Clash Royale.  So I know the difference.  It is hard to explain when you don’t play and when you don’t see kids reacting to the opportunities and changes in the game.  But I will try.

 

First of all with the onboarding.  It doesn’t just run an intro to get you going.  Clash Royale maintains a learning culture in players but constantly introducing new challenges and incentives to learn tools.  They know that if complexity increases and players don’t follow, they will be disappointed and leave.  For example these days they made a new “touchdown” way of playing.  So there is a simple version for you to get into it gradually in a consequence free environment.  Nothing to lose.  In fact you can’t go to the “proper” game until you have taken off the training wheels here.  Now think how many GUIs “upgrade”, “update” or generally get more difficult and lose customers.

The most common mistake of so called “gamification” plans is in fact the opposite of this.  They make the changes complicated but the rewards too simple.  Clash Royale allows you to feel you are the best on many different levels.  Maybe you have the most donations to clan members this week.  Or you are the only one with the new cool weapon, the highest level troop or some other unique category you can brag about.  You might be really good at a particular challenge.  Everything you do gains you something, but it is never simple.  Gold is useful, diamonds even better, experience points help you gain levels and it is all connected.  (Won’t go into how exactly, too nerdy, you have to play it.)  The rules of these rewards can be as complex as you want, in fact the more complicated the better.  Just stay on top of it.  We are online after all, you can adjust them dynamically depending on how people are reacting or not reacting to them.

Supercell, the creator of Clash Royale, is fast to fix things like that.  They take each new character as it’s own franchise.  With pre promotion, videos on youtube, it’s own introductory events to get everyone to know and use it and then new challenges to help it get back into vogue if we are not using it much.  Maybe it costs less elixir this week or it does double damage the next.  This is an economy which is centrally controlled after all.  Just make sure it is fun.

It can all be done with any platform.  It could be done with Google Maps.  After all the single biggest problem is how to get people involved and contributing.  You can’t map the world on your own.  I am a level 8 Local Guide.  At 15.000 points, all I get is the information that my next milestone is 50.000.  It is like looking at a very tall mountain from the bottom and not wanting to walk.  It would be like going through fifth and sixth grade together without any school report along the way, just a “well done!  You made it!” at the end of two years.   If you want me to tell you about wheelchair access, tell me that I am the hottest contributor this week or in my area this week.  Or that I did the fastest first ten contribution this week.  Anything.  In Clash Royale everything is always moving you ahead …somewhere.

The other important aspect of effort is community of course.  But here again, Supercell show the way ahead.  Because you can’t force community down anybody’s throat, much like you can’t force modern people to be sociable in the same way.  Some like to play with friends, to collaborate.  Others prefer to play with strangers or against strangers.  Sometimes we like to spar against friends.  At times we want the buzz of risking but then we like to just slog away in mindless torpor to relax.  It can’t all be at the same level all the time.  Clash Royale offers all these different ways of playing almost all the time.  Because as central dictator of their universe, they make sure that things are never permanent or too stable and boring.  Clan challenges appeared for a while, then disappeared while they decided on the initial data, then reappeared with gusto.  Now they come mainly on the weekends when all my sons’ friends (and me!) can play together and try and win clan chests which we all share.  Some of us like playing like that.

So by all means gamify your platform.  Gamify work, gamify learning.  But do it like Supercell or call it something else.